Many strands, one thread.

This one simple phrase was used throughout the night to weave together the commonality of four nonprofit organizations that Gulf Power recognized Tuesday, March 15 for their contributions and commitment to the communities of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

The organizations receiving the Power of Service awards included Another Chance Transitional Services, Learn to Read of Northwest Florida, St. Joseph Medical Clinic and Epps Christian Center Inc.

Referring to the line inscribe on the wall at Voices of Pensacola Multicultural Center, Stan Connally, Gulf Power president and CEO, drew inspiration from the quote and said the organizations, like the strands, create the thread of the community.

“These are organizations doing things that sometimes don’t get noticed as much,” said Connally. “But nonetheless, they are doing things that make a big difference in our community. Through these awards, we are helping to tell their story that otherwise might go unheard.”

Bishop Leon Rankins (second from left), CEO and founder of Another Chance Transitional Services, accepts the award on behalf of the organization.

Bishop Leon Rankins, CEO and founder of Another Chance Transitional Services, said he was humbled to receive the award and it will help represent those who don’t have a voice.

“Many of the men and women we serve don’t have a purpose,” said Rankins. “While helping them make the transition, we help them rediscover that purpose. This award will go a long way to help in that process.”

Another Chance Transitional Services, also known as ACTS, is dedicated to reducing the rate of recidivism of men and women released from jail or prison, by offering employment assistance, monthly seminars and training sessions, GED program and a dress-for-success clothing closet. To date, nearly 167 participants have received employment through the program.

Manette Magera, executive director of Learn to Read Northwest Florida, was completely surprised by the award, thinking she was attending a “mix and mingle” not an award ceremony.

Learn to Read
Manette Magera, executive director of Learn to Read Northwest Florida (front left), accepts the award on behalf of the organization.

“We are so humbled to receive this award,” said Magera. “We are a small organization with a big impact. No adult should be denied any privilege because they can’t read or write.”

Learn to Read of Northwest Florida is dedicated to helping functionally illiterate adults improve their lives by teaching them to read. According to Magera, there are nearly 34,000 estimated adults in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties where, if tested, would be found functionally illiterate.

“They need help with doctor notes, leases, job applications, check books and even road maps,” added Magera. “We recruit trainers that can work one-on-one with our students to help them be successful.”

Over the past 30 years, she added, more than 10,000 students have successfully completed the program.

St Joseph Medical Clinic
William “Billy” Gates, administrator for the St. Joesph Medical Clinic (center), accepts the award for the organization.

Another community organization receiving recognition was St. Joseph Medical Clinic, which provides health care to the uninsured and working poor. Formed in 2002 in response to concerns voiced by community members, it provides free medical, dental pharmaceutical and social services three days by an all-volunteer staff of 73 licensed health-care providers.

“We operate on donations and grants,” said William “Billy” Gates, administrator for the clinic. “We also operate on success stories. We are happy when our patients tell us they no longer need our services.”

The Reverend Sylvia Tisdale founded the Epps Christian Center in 2003 originally as a day care that has morphed over the years to include a soup kitchen that opened in 2006. According the Rev. Tisdale, the kitchen served 23 men so they could, “complete a good days work.”

The Reverend Sylvia Tisdale, founder of the Epps Christian Center (center), accepts the award on behalf of the organization.

Today the kitchen distributes more than 12,000 pounds of food to 400 families on average every month.

“I am truly blessed to be able to do what we do,” she said. “I have been commissioned by the Lord. If you could give a reason for doing what you do, then you are not doing it for the right reasons.”

The center also operates a food pantry, and offers GED classes and a summer youth program.

Gulf Power started the Power of Service awards in 2012 as a way to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of service and recognizes organizations that are dedicated to improving the lives of others.

Since the inception of the award program, 34 organizations in Northwest Florida have been recognized and awarded more than $85,000 in grants. The four organizations recognized on Tuesday each received a $2,500 grant.

Connally added the awards are a way for Gulf Power employees to engage with the community and recognize those working together to try and solve issues in the communities while giving back.

“Gulf Power is more than just selling electricity,” added Connally. “If we pay attention to what is going on in our community and stay engaged, the business stuff just kind of takes care of itself.”