Six area community leaders, professionals, volunteers and organizations will be honored on Friday, April 5, 2019 at the 34th annual Wilbur Ray Scholarship Dinner at the Waterview Pavilion, in Belmar, N.J. Brookdale Community College hosts the awards recognition ceremony each year.

Proceeds from the dinner benefit the Wilbur Ray Scholarship Program, which awards scholarships to students of color. The awards are named for the late Wilbur Ray, former Brookdale police sergeant and an active volunteer in the Long Branch community.

Gilda Rogers, journalist/author, playwright and educator is the event’s keynote speaker. She is the community relations liaison for Two River Theater in Red Bank, N.J., and vice president of the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation.

The 2019 honorees include:

The Deacons’ Union and Women’s Auxiliary of Monmouth and Adjacent Counties have served their communities for more than half a century. The organizations continue to operate the Monmouth Bible Institute, provide a broad range of support services throughout the area and promote fellowship among Baptist churches.

The T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center will open in 2019 as a community space. The T. Thomas Fortune Foundation worked diligently since 2008 to save this historic landmark in Red Bank, N.J., and the former home of the civil rights advocate from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Lillie Ham-Hendry, a devoted educator and community service worker, is president emeritus of the Court Street School Community Center in Freehold, N.J. The lifelong Freehold Borough resident was one of only two teachers from New Jersey selected as a Senator Fulbright cultural exchange teacher. She is a life member of the NAACP’s Freehold chapter and an active member of Bethel AME Church.

Marvin Harris, businessman and community activist, founded Harris Pharmacy in Freehold, N.J. He is well known for his dedication and service to the community.  Harris served as chairman of the Downtown Freehold Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Committee for the Borough of Freehold and in several roles, including president, of the Freehold Rotary Club.

Sergeant Edward Santana has risen through the ranks of the Freehold Police Department, attaining his current rank in 2015. With his wife, Maribel Santana, the couple founded the House of Peace. The ministry assists those in need such as troubled teens, the mentally challenged, couples experiencing marriage difficulties – all while educating others about the gospel.

Rev. Ronald L. Sparks, pastor of Bethel AME Church in Freehold N.J. Bethel celebrated its 170th Anniversary in 2019. Rev. Sparks is a member of the Freehold Clergy Association and the NJ Black Multi-Faith Alliance.  Rev. Sparks, along with other faith and community leaders, was instrumental in reestablishing the Freehold Chapter of the NAACP.

For more information about the Wilbur Ray Scholarship Program and this year’s dinner, visit or contact Michelle Stathum at 732-224-2705 or