The Bethlehem Center’s annual Brock-Crenshaw Breakfast of Champions is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 22 at 7:45 a.m. at Brainerd UMC.
“Christian Comedian Chucky Jenkins is our keynote speaker and we’ll also have a performance from the Bethlehem Center Youth Choir led by Willie Kitchens, Jr.,” said Lurone Jennings, Sr., executive director.
Additionally, he said, this breakfast will honor two Bethlehem Center pioneers Miriam Brock and Sallie Crenshaw.
Miriam Acree Brock played a prominent role in the opening of the current facility. In the summer of 1921, Mrs. Brock began a project for Black people with a bible study in the basement of Phillip’s Memorial Methodist Church. It was opened in October of 1921, at 1215 Grove Street. In 1926 the work was moved to 1401 College St. as a result of the generosity of Mary Caldwell donating a two-story brick home making a memorial to her father, a minister of the Baltimore Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church. The Bethlehem House had clubs for 200 participants from a wide range of age groups learning arts, crafts, recreational activities and providing a place for needed educational assistance. The Urban Renewal Program, highway and industrial additions, on the west side of Chattanooga included the site of the Bethlehem House. A building program for the West 38th Street site began the move of the ministry to the Alton Park Community.
Rev. Sallie Crenshaw, the first African-American female minister in the East Tennessee Methodist Conference, was sent by the church in 1947 to survey conditions in a badly neglected section of Chattanooga. From the results of Crenshaw’s survey grew the St. Elmo Mission. Ms. Crenshaw “borrowed” a beer tavern on St. Elmo Avenue at 33rd Street that was closed by law on Sunday and began the St. Elmo Mission with Sunday school there. 65 children and five adults sat on up-ended beer kegs for Bible study, crackers and juice. In December 1947, she rented a dilapidated old house for her mission. Ms. Crenshaw had come to the conclusion that if the children in her Sunday school were hungry on Sunday, they were probably hungry every other day of the week as well. By spring of 1948 she opened a day care center known as the Good Shepherd Fold that served 75-80 children every day. Also in 1948, she bought a large vacant lot for $600 and in 1954 was able to build a new brick facility on that property. The new building had three classrooms, a kitchen, an office, two bathrooms and a large chapel. The Good Shepherd Fold day care program continued to serve as many as 130 children, both black and white.
In 1969 the Board of Directors of the Good Shepherd Fold elected to merge with United Methodist Neighborhood Centers (Bethlehem Center). Ms. Crenshaw continued to serve the community as a minister until she retired in 1971 and remained a Board member for the merged Centers.
For sponsorship or ticket information, call Bill Holland 423-266-1384 ext. 12.
The Bethlehem Center is a nonprofit, faith-based agency dedicated to the transformation of lives and communities through programs and ministries that focus on spiritual growth, leadership and education primarily concentrating on literacy. For more information, visit www.TheBeth.org.