Leesburg CommUnity Breakfast Honors Dr. King, Community Leaders

Sophisticated Gents of Florida
James Lowe and Carolyn Samuel


LEESBURG – The Dr. Martin Luther King Commemoration Committee (MLKCC) held its’ first in person CommUnity Breakfast since the pandemic on Friday, January 21st, 2023 at the Venetian Center, 1 Dozier Circle, Leesburg, Florida.

The annual event, which recognized Dr. King’s fight for fairness and equality for all people and the contributions the civil rights icon made to help eliminate racism and other injustices, attracted more than 150 attendees representing leaders from civic and community organizations, businesses, education, law enforcement, and clergy.

Mr. James Lowe, Executive Director of Lake Community Action Agency, The Sophisticated Gents of Florida, an organization of professional retirees, and Ms. Debra Wanza Dabney, a community activist, received Community Service Awards for their dedication to improve the lives of Lake County Community residents.

Pastor Michael Watkins, Pastor of Friendship CME Church of Tavares, was the guest speaker. He engrossed the audience, focusing on the importance of people coming together as one to help eliminate problems facing our society. Alluding to the recent incident where Buffalo Bills’ football player Damar Hamlin survived a heart attack during a tackle, Pastor Watkins described how the country came together as one, praying for him and donating millions of dollars to Hamlin’s children’s program.

Tay Kiner                                                               

A “Spoken Word” about Dr. King by Tay Kiner was also impressive. Renditions of The Star Spangled Banner and The Black National Anthem by Cheryl Gibson Conner and Charlene Lacey respectively were heartfelt.


Cheryl Gibson Conner
Charlene Lacey

Proclamations were presented by Leesburg City Commissioner Mayor Jimmy Burry and Kirby Smith, Chair of the Lake County Commission.

Kirby Smith, Lake County Commissioner

Lake County Schools Superintendent Diane Kornegay and Dr. Heather Bigard, President of Lake Sumter State College, both spoke briefly about Dr. King.

Diane Kornegay, Lake County Superintendent
Dr. Heather Bigard, Lake Sumter State College President

Ms. Lillian Lockette, CommUnity Breakfast Committee Chairperson, said, “The MLK breakfast served as a great honor and salute to Dr. King. The singing of the Star Spangled Banner by Cheryl Gibson kicked off the program and set the stage. Wow her voice brought chills.”

Lillian Lockette, Chairperson

The keynote speaker’s message, Ms. Lockette stated, “Resonated with a lot of people. The recognition of outstanding citizens for their community service culminated the event.”

“This was a program well done and well received. Service to others is the rent we pay for the space we occupy,” concluded Ms. Lockette”

“The MLK CommUnity Breakfast made me think about the times when you could just talk to people about what you felt about the state of your community,” said Carolyn Samuel, President of the MLKCC. “Pastor Watkins presented a message to the audience that mirrored the ideas of service that were dear to the heart of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. You could genuinely feel the acceptance of the audience while he spoke.”

Commenting on the well attended event, Ms. Samuel said, “The number of people who attended gave me hope for the committee’s work for commemorating the work of Dr. King in the future.”

Using a series of anecdotes, Master of Ceremony Pernell Mitchell kept the audience laughing and gracefully moved the program along. The Lake County Sheriff Department’s Color Guard enhanced the program when they “Posted the Colors”.

Lake County Sheriff Department Color Guard

Invocation was done by Pastor David Stauffer of Morrison United Methodist Church.

Pastor David Stauffer