Emerald Youth Celebrates 30th Year at Annual Prayer Breakfast

By Jamie Schnell


Emerald Youth Foundation celebrated 30 years of success with “good music and a bit of Jesus” at the annual prayer breakfast held earlier this month.

JustLead Ministry Director Wyatt Livingston engaged the 2,000 attendees at the breakfast, leading the call to worship by bringing his energy and setting the tone with his promise of good music and Jesus.

The goals of Emerald Youth are to expand the number of children engaged in faith and to develop leaders from these children. Emerald Youth fuels the growth of the children twofold with Christian fellowship and youth sports.

Speakers included Ted Hall, anchor/managing editor for WVLT; COO Sharon Shoup; founding pastor Reverend Bob Dean; Steve Diggs, president and CEO; Kaylin Chesney, a director of Area Ministries; Elder Philip Hamilton Sr., pastor of Children of God Ministries, Lurone Jennings, executive director of the Mary Walker Foundation; Courtney Tilford, development officer; and the Emerald Youth Choir, led by Timiethea Delaney, Jeff Seay and Willie Kitchens from the Willie Kitchens School of Music. Longtime member Matt Hinkin was awarded for his 30 years of service.

COO Sharon Shoup referenced Isaiah 43:19, “I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland,” in describing Emerald Youth Foundation as having “grown out of love, warmth, a servant’s heart, an obedience to God’s calling.” She said the vision of Emerald Youth is to “help kids, in every neighborhood, to be healthy to achieve their goals. Every young person has value. We help them discover their gifts and talents. Jesus loves them, and we love them.”

Retired Reverend Bob Dean, called to pastor at Emerald Ave, spoke of how he previously served in rural based churches and how his “obedience to church and spirit” led him to accept the call to serve in an inner-city church area. Once there, he realized God and the spirit were at Emerald and that his faith had led him to a “wonderful relationship.”

The Emerald Youth Choir, comprised of children of all ages, performed traditional and call and response songs.  They were shouted the questions, “If they said you would never amount to anything, what do you say?” The children proudly answered, “I’m Blessed!”

“If they say your neighborhood would never amount to anything, what do you say?” The children answered, “I’m blessed!”

During the breakfast, an Emerald Academy video scrolled through some of the accomplishments of the organization and of the children such as the Claude Walker Park, children going up two grade levels, an alumnus acquiring their real estate license, and another student who made the swim team. “We have reason to celebrate what God has done in this ministry,” Steve Diggs told the assembly. “Too many young people (are) lacking mentors and group leaders to shape the direction of their lives. There are 2,000 reasons sitting with us at these tables this morning.”

Kaylin Chesney, director of EY East/South Area Ministries, echoed Diggs on the importance of inspiring youth and preparing them for the life ahead. “We can show them what’s out there, that it doesn’t matter what age you are in order to make a difference. To show them they can have the full life that God has planned for them.”

Elder Hamilton praised the work God has done in the past 30 years and reminded the crowd of the impact today’s youth will have. “(By continuing to) give time to their talent, our youth is better prepared to be united. But without a vision, the people perish.”

To learn more about the Emerald Youth Foundation and to help them reach their goals, visit emeraldyouth.org/getinvolved or donate at eyfonate.org.