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Out & About: OIC affiliates celebrate legacy of founder Leon Sullivan

Oct 23, 2018

Opportunities Industrialization Center, OIC of America (OICA) and its affiliates from across the country convened in Philadelphia from Oct. 15 to Oct. 17 for a milestone reunion and celebration of the enduring legacy of OIC founder Rev. Dr. Leon H. Sullivan. The multi-day event was held at the Wyndham Philadelphia Hotel.

The reunion successfully demonstrated the resurgence of OICA’s national presence and was attended by OICA staff, network affiliates, OIC alumni and business partners and some traveled from as far away as Seattle, Wash.

James C. Haynes, OICA president and board chair stated, “It is compelling that this organization has grown and thrived to include 34 affiliates in 22 states. We are excited about recognizing the continued relevance and foresight of our founder, Rev. Sullivan. His vision to create an organization to ‘Help People Help Themselves’ has existed for more than half a century, continues to live on and, has trained and educated millions of men and women from all walks of life and ethnic groups across the country, ensuring they become productive members of society and the American Workforce. We are mindful that the city of Philadelphia, the home of our national headquarters, has the highest poverty level of any large city in the country. Over the three-day period, we achieved our goal of sharing best and promising practices in our network that can be shared and leveraged to address challenges in our society relating to education, poverty, unemployment/underemployed and economic empowerment, while also having meaningful and actionable dialogue about OICA’s mission and our effectiveness in addressing other critical issues.”

The three-day reunion included a business, training and social agenda and many special highlights. There were informative and moving presentations about the Rev. Dr. Sullivan on his birthdate, Oct. 16. Ronald J. Harper, Esq., OICA board member and Mable Welborn, Board Chair, Leon H. Sullivan Charitable Trust were very close to Rev. Dr. Sullivan and spoke about their long personal and professional relationships with him. The common thread in their remarks was the tremendous wisdom, humanity and humility of Rev. Dr. Sullivan.

Hope Sullivan and Howard Sullivan, Dr. Sullivan’s children, attended. Hope shared her personal memories about growing up as the daughter of the iconic leader. Hope said, “Over the years, I heard my father repeat his best sermons many times, his stories many times, and his roar many times. I never tired of listening because his truths remained constant. He never thought he did enough. Once, he expressed his greatest regret- “Not enough people came through the doors I opened”.

Educational and community-based programs play a major role in the vision and mission of OICA. The OIC network administers programs in vocational training, job readiness, health care, education, reentry and youth development. OICA will continue to expand the national team in order to provide technical assistance, performance management, and support of its network of affiliates, program partners and funders.

Among the topics addressed during the business portion of the event were: resource development by Louis King, president Summit Academy OIC, Minneapolis, Minn.; community engagement, Steve Schmidbauer, chief operating officer, job training-an affiliate of OIC, Menlo Park, Calif.; apprenticeships, Joseph McFerrin II, president- Portland, Ore. OIC; volunteerism-Luddy Hayden, president of Luddy Hayden and Associates and funder and marketing/public relations by Naja Killebrew, communications manager, OICA.

Following the afternoon break, the OICA Family were thrilled and surprised when Grammy nominated singer Kathy Sledge entered the room singing Sister Sledge “anthem,” “We are Family.” Kathy was honored to be part of the event and part of the celebration of the life and legacy of OIC’s Founder Leon H. Sullivan. As always, Kathy’s voice and presence were amazing!

Among the affiliate leaders attending were: Charles CrumbleyDenise AsheJefferey Woodard and Joyce Chester of Pennsylvania, Steve Mitchell, of Washington, Harvey Nutter of New Jersey; Steve Schmidbauer, of California, Bob Farris of North Carolina, Michael Calabrese of Ohio, William Smith of Louisiana, Louis King, of Minnesota, Gene Blue of Arizona, Paulette Fox and Robert Lampkin of Connecticut and Ed Greene of Maryland.

It was back to business on day two with a dynamic presentation by Dr. Jamie Bracey-Green, Director of STEM Education, Temple University. Dr. Bracey-Green reached out to OICA to partner and is a strong example of the kinds of partnerships that are being forged for program and training development on the cutting edge of science and technology and economic development.

Jason Whyte, OICA Senior Director of Operations and Strategy presented a summary of the organization’s activities to include an emerging national program called SOAR providing services to those formally incarcerated to successfully reenter the education and job market.

James Haynes concluded the session by providing a very positive summary on the current state of OICA National Office and was positively received by all in attendance.

The reunion ended on a note that punctuated why it was a “Party with a Purpose.”

The entire occasion reflected the organization’s growth, unity, focus and it was just plain fun. The closing party featured the smooth sounds of popular recording artist and former member of the Manhattans, Gerald Alston, closed out the “Party with a Purpose.” Alston is also a driving force in the OICA Ambassador’s Program. There’s much more to come about this!

Vocalist Tanqueray Hayward, backed up by Colt Younger and some of Philly’s finest musicians, did an amazing rendition of Aretha Franklin classics.

Kudos to Gail Younger, OICA Executive Assistant/Coordinator, who was recognized by CEO Haynes for diligently and enthusiastically coordinating the event as outlined and planned by the organizing committee.

Congratulations to all members of the OIC of America Family. Rev. Dr. Leon H. Sullivan would be proud!


OIC is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization preparing people for today's workforce with quality life skills development, fundamental education, superior job skills training, and employment readiness services.


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