Brian K. Jackson still makes time for volunteering, even though he will oversee the opening of Stockton University’s Atlantic City campus this fall.
Jackson, chief operating officer for the Atlantic City campus, serves on the boards of the Family Service Association of South Jersey, Seashore Gardens Living Center and a local and regional board for the United Way.
“I think that I’ve been so blessed and fortunate over the years in my life and career. I have an obligation to give back,” said Jackson, 47. “Stockton is about educating. Stockton is about empowering, and Stockton is about engaging with the community. It is ingrained in me to do this.”
Jackson, of Galloway Township, and Shermaine Gunter-Gary and Michael Bailey, both of Atlantic City, are three South Jersey residents who continue to uphold the principles of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through their involvement with the community and their efforts to improve the lives of their fellow citizens.
Gunter-Gary grew up seeing her late mother, Verlee Gunther-Moore, run her own business, Gunther’s Market on Ohio Avenue, so she believed it was possible for her to start her own private, nonprofit organization called the Atlantic County Council of Youth Programs Inc. in 1989.
The group has four active programs: Rites of Passage, Atlantic City Theater Guild, William J. Porter Memorial Basketball from June to August and the Atlantic City Youth Entrepreneur Program.
The Atlantic City Theater Guild puts on plays and will do a Black History Month program, Gunter-Gary said.
“We provide small, little vignettes about different topics that are affecting the kids. We’ve done them on bullying. We’ve done them on drug and alcohol prevention. We’ve done them on relationships,” Gunter-Gary said.
Gunter-Gary, 62, said she is looking for a sponsor for this year, who is willing to work with children and teach them how to run their own businesses for the Atlantic City Youth Entrepreneur Program.
Gunter-Gary credits her generosity to the example her mother set for her.
“I grew up watching her repeatedly do this for the people in our community everyday. If she had 10 cents in her pocket and somebody needed 10 cents, she gave them the dime and had faith that the Lord would replace it. That’s how she was,” Gunter-Gary said.
Gunter-Gary and Bailey were both honored as youth advocates Friday by Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson with the county’s Community Spirit Award as part of the county’s 31st annual King birthday celebration.
In 1978, Bailey was a coach of the Atlantic City Dolphins, who are a part of the Atlantic County junior football league, and also a Little League baseball coach, which started his involvement with the Police Athletic League.
Bailey started working at the Atlantic City Police Athletic League in 1982 as the assistant to the executive director. He became the executive director himself and held the position from 2013 to 2015.
Even though Bailey is no longer the executive director at PAL, he volunteers there and is the head of the male mentoring program, which started in 2011.
“We wanted to be able to specifically reach the young men and talk about the things that young men have to deal with on a daily basis,” said Bailey, 57.
Bailey always said if he was going to be involved with a mentoring program, he wanted it to be one where life is not sugarcoated. The program runs from February through November.
Bailey also has a talk show on gospel radio station WEHA-FM 88.7 and 100.3, out of Egg Harbor Township. His program is called “Spotlight with the Coach.” This is in addition to being the minister of music at Union Baptist Temple in Atlantic City where he is the director of four choirs.
Without Dr. King, there may not have been integrated mentor programs or baseball or football leagues, Bailey said.
Stockton started holding its annual Martin Luther King Day of Service 14 years ago. It will be held again Monday.
Jackson, who started working at Stockton 20 years ago this month, was the first chair of the committee who planned it. He still serves as co-chairman and has for the past 14 years.
“We have the largest day of service in South Jersey. We anticipate upwards of 900 volunteers, and we will have service projects throughout Atlantic County, as far away as Cape May County, as far west as Hammonton and all the way up to the Tuckerton area, Ocean County,” Jackson said.
Jackson began a bowling event, which was started to celebrate his birthday, and two years ago, he turned it into a fundraiser for the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey. Until recently, he also served on that board of directors, which was his fifth board.
In October, Jackson booked an entire bowling alley and raised several thousand dollars for the Family Service Association, which was his most successful birthday fundraiser to date. The association is dedicated to improving the lives of families and individuals in the community.
Jackson’s efforts at giving back have ranged from writing a check to help friends who had family members displaced in Puerto Rico to reading Dr. Seuss books to children at one of the day care centers in Atlantic City.
In carrying on King’s principles, Jackson believes he is repaying a debt.
“If not for the work he did and the sacrifices he and his wife and all of the leaders of that time made, I would not be where I am,” said Jackson, who heard the late Coretta Scott King speak in person at Stockton in 2004.