Published on November 1, 2021 by Holly Gainer  
Recipients with President Beck Taylor

Three individuals whose good works have made a difference in society, community affairs, the life of the church and the quality of life for others received the Samford Medallion Award on Nov. 1. The awards ceremony, which was hosted by WVTM 13’s Rick Karle, was one of a dozen events planned to celebrate the inauguration of the university’s 19th president, Beck A. Taylor.

The recipients included Tony Cooper, who served as the executive director of the Jimmie Hale Mission for 29 years until he retired in 2019; Frances Ford, executive director of Sowing Seeds of Hope; and Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief.

For 77 years, the Jimmie Hale Mission has been helping men afflicted by homelessness in downtown Birmingham through education remediation, job readiness and spiritual support. It also provides a recovery program for those affected by substance abuse. Under Cooper’s leadership, the organization has been able to help thousands of community members.

“Tony came to the Jimmie Hale Mission at a financial low point in its history and through his dynamic leadership and visionary approach, he built the Mission into what it is today. So many lives were forever changed by the Mission over the 29 years Tony led this organization,” said Michael Coleman, executive director of the Jimmie Hale Mission. “He is so deserving of this recognition due to his leadership, passion and selfless service towards the homeless and those suffering from addiction in our community. “

Sowing Seeds of Hope is a faith-based community development organization devoted to serving and supporting people in Perry County and across the Black Belt region. Under Ford’s leadership, it has served 4,689 individuals in the county in the last year, which is nearly half of the county’s population. The organization provides health education and health screenings, hosts parenting support groups, promotes literacy, and improves housing. It also distributes school supplies, eldercare products, clothing and food.

“Sowing Seeds of Hope is proud of Frances Ford and her ongoing commitment to service in our community. We are thankful for our continuing partnership with Samford University, which has helped us realize Mrs. Ford’s vision of improving health care in Perry County,” said Susan Jones, director of communications and special projects at Sowing Seeds of Hope.

Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief organizes hundreds of volunteers to help those affected by disasters by offering food, water, childcare, showers, laundry, repairs, rebuilding and more. Mark Wakefield, who is the organization’s lead disaster relief strategist, accepted the award on behalf of Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief. He is also a state missionary who has served with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions since February 2013. 

“We are grateful any time Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are honored for their service to our Lord. They serve Him by serving those who are hurting especially after natural disasters,” said Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. “Mark Wakefield exemplifies this spirit and leads these frontline ministry initiatives as our disaster relief strategist. There's no better person to receive the Medallion Award on behalf of Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief.” 

Samford also donated $1,000 to each organization, which was announced during the ceremony.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.