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NAACP Image Awards recognize achievements in business, education, health care and more

September 27, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.
Pictured are honorees at the 2021 NAACP Image Awards. From left to right are Caleb Baumgardner, recognized in Diversity; Vince Dawson, recognized in Education; Kaylee Lark, who accepted the award for Barbara Lark, recognized in Business; the Rev. Felton Burgie of Morning Star Baptist Church #2, reconized for Community Service; Vernita Morgan, recognized in Education; Twana Scott, recognized in Business; Dr. Ezinne Nwude, recognized in Health care; Stephanie Owens, founder of Y.A.S., recognized in Entertainment; and Greg Modica, the night's Overall Honoree. Not pictured is DeQuita Miller-Daniels, who was recognized in Civil Service. (Contributed)

The NAACP Image Awards were held Saturday evening, where several people were recognized for their contributions to local business, education, civil and community service, health care and more.

According to the event's program, this was the first year that 10 honorees were selected for recognition.

"As we celebrate and recognize these recipients, we acknowledge their journey has not been easy nor their struggle without hurdles and obstacles. The 'terrific ten' honored here are reflections of dedication and commitment. Each honoree proudly represents the stated category," said Janice Bush, president of the local NAACP chapter.

Last year's Image Awards were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business honorees this year included Twana Scott, owner of Sweet Mama T's Soul Food Restaurant, and Barbara Lark, founder of B's Weddings & Rentals.

Scott, an El Dorado native, dreamed for 15 years of opening her own restaurant. She started cooking at 11 years old.

"My mom and my aunties played a major part in encouraging me to pursue my long-time dream. I'm most appreciative for all the late-night conversations that took place in my years of growing up. Cooking was always my passion and I felt that opening a restaurant in my city/community would be a huge benefit, especially after church. I want my customers to feel as if they've just eaten at their mom or grandparents house with that special at home atmosphere," Scott said.

Scott and Sweet Mama T's have previously been recognized in the El Dorado Union County-Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Awards and twice in the News-Times' Readers Choice Awards.

Lark has been in business for 20 years, helping brides-to-be enjoy their dream weddings. B's Weddings & Rentals' slogan is "A small business with a big heart."

Young Artist Studios, or YAS, was recognized for achievement in entertainment. The youth performance group's mission is to spread the message of living drug-free. The group was formed in 2018 by Stephanie Owens with help from her daughter Kaitlynn Ford. They regularly perform at community events and, before the pandemic, wrote and staged several plays.

DeQuita Miller-Daniels was recognized for her civil service. The El Dorado native, even as a young child, knew she wanted to give back; when asked what she wanted to do when she grew up, she would answer "make the world a better place."

Miller-Daniels pursued a number of career paths -- everything from cosmetology to automotive service to the United States Army -- before finding her passion in protecting and joining the El Dorado Police Department. She led the "Gentleman's Club" at Barton Junior High School while serving as a resource officer there, as well as an all-girls program called "Gems."

Now, Miller-Daniels is a chemist supervisor at Clean Harbors, drawing on her Army training.

Morning Star #2 Missionary Baptist Church was recognized for community service. The church has been active since its founding in 1905 by the Rev. George Jones. Since its centennial in 2005, the Rev. Felton Burgie has led the church.

In 2007, Burgie and his wife, Jackie, founded the Bread of Life ministry at the church, providing meals to sick, shut-in and elderly individuals in the community. Through the church, clothing and blanket giveaways, community clean-ups and Blessing Box deliveries of food and household items have been organized.

The church will next month open a second location in Hamburg.

Vernita Morgan and Vince Dawson were honored for their achievements in education.

An Associate Mathematics Professor at South Arkansas Community College, Morgan, a former engineer and Louisiana native, has led the SouthArk Employee's Club in several positions and represented the school in national mathematics programs.

Morgan has volunteered with the Girls Learning Math and Science (GLAMS) summer program at SouthArk and has worked with local elementary school children to engage them in STEM education. Morgan also has an interest in history and genealogy, serving as a volunteer genealogist at the Barton Public Library and speaking on historical topics at national forums.

Dawson currently works as an academic advisor at SouthArk, and previously was a guidance counselor for the El Dorado School District and West Side Christian School, where he also served as principal of education.

Dawson has served as a board member for the Union County Preservation Society, South Arkansas Art Center and Camp Kurios, and is a charter member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Sigma Phi Lambda, a member of Pride and Progress Club and the Union County Genealogical Society Executive Committee. He also volunteers for the Salvation Army.

Dr. Ezinne Nwude, Chief of Staff at Medical Center of South Arkansas, was recognized for her work in health care. Nwude and her husband, Dr. Ugo Nwude, own and operate the Gold Cross Urgent Care Clinic and the Gold Cross Family Care Clinic, which provide care to underserved communities and expand health care access in Union County. She is also the Medical Director of the SHARE Foundation's Interfaith Clinic.

Nwude grew up in Nigeria, where she saw her mother provide care to local residents of their small village. She has previously been recognized for Excellence in Leadership by SCP Health and in 2017 was named MCSA Physician of the Year.

Nwude has been at the forefront of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020 and recently has led MCSA health care professionals in demanding top-tier care for local residents.

Local attorney and News-Times columnist Caleb Baumgardner was recognized for work in diversity. The El Dorado native has practiced law since 2014, and since 2016 has owned and operated the Baumgardner Law Firm which is based in El Dorado.

Baumgardner is a member of the Union County NAACP chapter and serves on the boards of the Hannah Pregnancy Resource Center, the Salvation Army, the Arkansas Coalition for Peace and Justice and the Arkansas Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice.

The top honor of the night went to Greg Modica, the owner of Government Supply Services. The Army veteran works to mentor other veterans in underserved communities on how to start a business, build networking relationships, find resources to develop personally and grow their business.

He currently serves on the Executive and Advisory boards of the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce and served two terms on the Arkansas Economic Development Commission's Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Advisory Council. He is a graduate of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Arkansas program, the international Economic Development Council's Basic Economic Developers and the Arkansas Small Business Administration's inaugural class of Emerging Leaders.

Modica is U.S. Army lieutenant and licensed private pilot. He has earned bachelor's degrees in criminal justice and aviation science.

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