By Ameera Steward
For The Birmingham Times
Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Pratt City earlier this year received a $20,000 donation for much needed education work, said Tommie L. Lewis, senior pastor at the church.
“That donation will help us…do mission [work] and then of course…education,” said Lewis. “And we were so grateful for this because we’ve [America] had so much devastation in these days in which we live, so we were able to do some existential work and missions; and then of course it provided for us a vehicle to continue to educate our people.”
That cash was donated by Don Vaccarro, CEO of Ticket Network one of the leading online ticket exchanges in the country. Because of the gift, Bethel Missionary Baptist has decided to name its resource center ‘The Don Vaccaro Center.’
“When you find a gentleman like Mr. Vaccaro, you welcome him with open arms because there is a dire need [for help],” said Lewis.
“The more we [Lewis and Vaccaro] talked the more I discovered that he didn’t just start this with me, he’s been doing this for quite a while and helping organizations that serve the black community,” Lewis continued. “So, I guess when people get to a place in life where they have money, they want to do some good and what better place to do good then the African American church,” he added.
Vaccaro, 57, of Hartford, Conn., partnered with Dr. Boise Kimber, pastor of the First Calvary Baptist Church in New Haven, Conn. to help churches nationwide.
Kimber said Vaccaro’s work has had a tremendous effect on people because in this economic time, “people are shifting and trying to maintain membership, trying to maintain their budgets, trying to maintain their finances, and so he’s been a blessing to people.”
Vaccaro said he wants to do more for the African American community and continue fighting the forces against minorities across the country.
“What I try to do is inspire folks to be entrepreneurs…once you get folks of color up to a different economic level, they raise other people up there. So…I love to see them as entrepreneurs and I hate with a passion any laws or any systems and policies that disenfranchise, not only black people and minorities…anyone that’s at a low level of income from succeeding,” said Vaccaro. “I love it when entrepreneurs are able to start and build their own businesses.”
He’s made helping communities his mission since he can remember, but in 2012 his image was tainted after being wrongfully accused and arrested for using a racial slur.
“You find out who your real friends are, you find out what other people really think of you, and some people tried to use it for their economic advantage…competitors in the market place,” Vaccaro said.
He said the experience led to lifelong friendships with the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and the National Action Network. “I’m a big supporter of both organizations,” he said.
Kimber said he’s gotten to know Vaccaro.“With my working with him, the guy has been totally honest with me and he has been a man of his word,” Kimber said. “He has exemplified great character and business…I have no problem with his integrity, if he says he’s going to do something then he does it.”