A legacy of service, sacrifice and love were celebrated Saturday, October 21st as UMCOR Sager Brown recognized its 150th anniversary on its Baldwin, Louisiana Campus. The event brought former teachers, administrators, students and volunteers back together for a day of festivities that will now also become a part of the agency’s history. Even the heavens smiled on the event as a day forecast for rain held off until the parade rolled through the town and the keynote speaker gave a motivational speech to the crowd gathered.
Among the day’s honorees were its oldest living students. Ocie Napoleon, a ninety-something year old young at heart who refused to reveal her exact age and remembers her days as a member of the Sager Brown glee club. There is also Susie Mae Lewis a 94-year-old who said she comes from the old school and students in her day had a lot more discipline and respect for elders. Then there is 84-year-old Eliza Collins a member of Trinity United Methodist Church who says, although she was only a student at Sager Brown for one year, she met many friends from the campus who also visited and became members of her church.
These Ladies are a part of the Sager Brown Legacy that began with the housing and education of black orphans of the civil war. It was an era that dated as far back as 1867 when a group of women from New Orleans formed the Orphan’s Home Society. The mission eventually found its home on the Baldwin campus funded by the Freedman’s Society and John Baldwin a plantation owner in St Mary Parish.
In the early 1900s, the Orphan’s Home and Godman Industrial School were in dire financial straits. Dr. and Mrs. Godman took the student choir, the Jubilee Singers, on a tour of the northeastern U.S. to raise money. Mrs. Addie Sager and Mrs. C. W. Brown became familiar with the plight of the organization through a concert given for the North Central New York Methodist Conference. Sager and Brown purchased the school and gave it to the Woman’s Home Mission Society, a forerunner of United Methodist Women, to operate.
The legacy of Sager Brown’s ability to touch hearts and bring together workers to be the hands and feet of Christ was noted by UMCOR Executive Director Dr. Olusimbo Ige of Atlanta in her address to the audience. There are several things to celebrate today, we’re celebrating connections,” Ige said. “We are connected to 2,500 to 3,000 people who stay here annually, 20 different states this year that has benefited from the kits assembled here, 57 different countries this year alone connected through disaster response and 5.3 million people reached this year through the ministry at UMCOR. Me, from the backside of nowhere, all the way from Nigeria, connected to 37 different nationalities that sit in Atlanta as part of UMCOR. There are many things in our world today that don’t work. I want you to go back remembering the things that do work.”
Keynote speaker Dr. Wanda Nelson wanted former students in attendance to remember their rich history. “I pray that all former Sager Brown students are a living example of the kinds of men and women the administration, leaders, and staff were to us to become (who we are). They gave us their very best efforts,” Nelson said.
Also honored at the event was former Boy Scout Troop leader James “Sonny” Armelin, Jr. who led the only black Boy Scout troop in the area. It was a popular choice of extracurricular activity for young men from the Baldwin area in the 1960’s. Many of them were there to recite the Boy Scout pledge and have fun singing an impromptu hiking song.
The day ended with a slideshow presentation of UMCOR Sager Brown’s history and the presentation of items that will be placed in a time capsule to be opened in 50 years in the year 2067.