By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Evander Holyfield, the former heavyweight boxing champion from Atmore, Ala., has an appreciation for organizations like Positive Maturity. His road to four world-champion belts began when he was a member of The Boys Club in Atlanta, where he learned to give back and help others—something Positive Maturity does, as well.
“I do charity work for the kids,” he said during a recent visit to Birmingham. “I had an opportunity to be at The Boys Club, and it changed my life. [It] is one of the great things in my life that allowed me to be who I am today.”
As founder of The Holyfield Foundation, an organization committed to serving underprivileged children, the former champ seeks to help, encourage, and inspire others. Holyfield was among the Alabama residents recognized last week during the Positive Maturity Fifth Annual Top 50 Over 50 Gala at Birmingham’s The Club. The celebration highlighted individuals ages 50 and older who have had a significant impact on their community.
“I’m honored to be here,” Holyfield said. “It’s nice because there’s nothing you can hide by the time you get 50. [T]hey shed a light on people in the community 50 or older who are doing good.”
Other honorees at the event included More Than Conqueror’s Faith Church Pastor Steve Green; Bethel Missionary
Baptist Church Pastor Dr. T.L. Lewis; longtime Birmingham Times columnist and account executive Gwen DeRu; and author and Jackson-Olin High School Assistant Principal Dr. John Plump.
Lewis said he was grateful for the Positive Maturity volunteers who served as caregivers for his wife who passed recently.
“They were such a great help to my mother and me as we were caring for my wife of 48 years,” he said. “I’ve known about the agency for many, many years, and truly I’m amazed to be honored because I didn’t know that I was in the top anything. I’ve been a pastor for almost 50 years, and awards are fine, and I accept it, but what I really want is my reward in heaven one day from the Lord.”
Lewis’s work can be seen across the Birmingham area, including the Regional and Empowerment Development Center Inc. (formerly Bethel Community Learning Center), Re-Creational Community Development Inc., and Greater Works Inc.
Another honoree, United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Area Development Director Casi Ferguson, stressed the importance of being committed to serving others.
“My days and weekends are very busy with working for other organizations and making sure I give back because really the only thing you end up with is service,” she said. “You might not have a whole boatload of money, but if you give service you’ll always get it back.”
Positive Maturity, established in 1970 by the Independent Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to assess and meet the needs of the aging population, was one of the first senior organizations in Jefferson County.
Positive Maturity is a partner of the United Way of Central Alabama and a sponsor for the Corporation for National and Community Services’ Senior Corps Programs. Its programs include the Retired and Senior Volunteers (RSVP), Aging Workers Are Reliable Employees (AWARE), Shepherd Center East, and Geriatric Social Services. Past Positive Maturity Top 50 Over 50 honorees include University of Alabama (UA) Coach Nick Saban; Auburn University Coach Gus Malzahn; UA football sportscaster Eli Gold; former Birmingham Mayor William Bell; Judge Houston Brown; Judge Sherri C. Friday; meteorologist James Spann; Birmingham Times founder Dr. Jesse Lewis; former Birmingham Police Chief Annetta Nunn; and the late Judge Helen Shores Lee.
This year’s gala was dedicated to Maxine “Mackie” Horowitz, a Positive Maturity volunteer who passed away earlier this year.
“She had such a passion for the aging community and for elderly individuals,” said Kakoliris. “She served them with her whole heart, making sure they were actively engaged in the community and just enjoying their later years.”
Horowitz was also a key contributor to the creation of Top 50 Over 50. She served on every committee and worked tirelessly to educate the community about the event and find nominees.