Community Leaders Jones, Belcher Receive Service Award

Annual award from Duke Chapel recognizes those whose lives demonstrate a commitment to service, simplicity

Community Leaders Jones, Belcher Receive Service Award
The Rev. Allen Jones and Minister Sylvia Belcher

Duke University Chapel has awarded its 2019 Humanitarian Service Award to the Rev. Allen Jones of Change Path Ministries and Minister Sylvia Belcher of St. John Missionary Baptist Church.

The annual award recognizes a person or people whose lives demonstrate a commitment to service and simplicity. It comes with a $1,500 donation made to an organization designated by each recipient.

This year’s award will be presented to Jones and Belcher at a reception, free and open to the public, at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, in the Divinity School’s Alumni Memorial Commons Room. Light refreshments will be served.

In his work with Change Path Ministry, Jones, alongside co-pastor Rev. Dorothy Clark, provides food security, a welcoming space, pastoral care and worship to the residents of his Guthrie St. neighborhood. Jones can often be found talking and praying with someone, planning an event to end gun violence, or feeding and clothing anyone who comes to his front porch. 

In recommending Jones for the award, the Rev. David Crispell, executive director of Jubilee Home in Durham, said, “Allen makes sure his neighbors have a voice, a meal and a place they can be valued – his own front porch. On ‘the porch’ neighbors get to experience the holiness of presence, and be affirmed in their own skin.”

Belcher is the chair of outreach for Walltown Neighborhood Ministries, which comprises seven churches. As part of the ministry, Belcher coordinates a food bank through which the churches provide food and supplies to people in need. She also organizes leadership activities for youth and works to bridge racial divides in Durham’s Walltown neighborhood.

In support of Belcher’s nomination, Margaret Frothingham, director of congregational care at Blacknall Presbyterian Church, said, “Sylvia regularly sends out supply lists for items needed and it has become part of our church culture to have a Walltown Neighborhood Ministries food box out all the time for donations. She’s changed our church culture to be more generous!”

The chapel’s Humanitarian Service Award has its roots in two Duke professors. In 1990, religion professor, sociologist and United Methodist minister C. Eric Lincoln started the award to honor Dr. George R. Parkerson Jr., former chairman of the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Duke’s School of Medicine.

“Presenting this award to Rev. Jones and Minister Belcher is an occasion both to share the stories of their vibrant, compassionate work and to help further that work through the generous fund established for humanitarian work,” said the Rev. Breana van Velzen, Duke Chapel’s community minister. “It is a delight to share with these hard-working individuals and their communities that someone, somewhere recognizes the difference they are making.”