Yesterday I attended my last “in person” board meeting with the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. I have had the honor of working with this group from the very beginning. I am now an ’emeritus board member’–meaning the old guy who won’t go away!
But with our impending move to Nova Scotia I will no longer be able to attend the meetings in person. Through technology I will be able to occasionally share tidbits of wisdom! They honored me by having a reception after the board meeting. During that time, I had a few things I wanted to share. Here are my remarks.
Nov 16, 2017
My mentor Hardy Clemons, once told me as I was about to leave Greenville that when you leave there are some things you need to say to people. This is one of those times. You are some of those people!
I want to thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this wild adventure. As I began my ministerial career, I had several girls to become pregnant or thought they were. That was what got me started in learning about the issue of teen pregnancy. I went to a meeting and next think I know I am the chair of the Caldwell County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Council. Barbara Huberman took pity on this young minister and helped me along the way.
When I went to Greenville I really thought I was through with this issue. What Baptist minister ever thinks that teen pregnancy is a career advancing issue? But I was invited to another meeting and before I knew what was happening I was the chair of the Greenville Council.
I am rotating off when I am sitting in my office one morning when I get a phone call from a Joy Campbell inviting me to a meeting. It seemed that the March of Dimes wanted to get everyone concerned about teen pregnancy around the table to see what we could do.
I went. I think there were 6 of us!
The only person I remember other than Joy was Anne Bageley. She sat across the table from me, and at one point looked at me and said, “How can you call yourself a Christian, yet alone a minister, and be with them?” That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship! That continues to this day!
In my opinion, the meeting was an abject failure. I went back home saying “Well, that was fun.” But a few weeks later this Joy Campbell woman called again. She said, “we are putting together a statewide coalition to address teen pregnancy and I have 2 questions. 1 Will you serve on our board?” I agreed. Then she said, the second is would you be the first chair?
That had to go to my boss and the personnel committee. Both agreed, and then said they would share this with the Reasons. (In Greenville that was 84 people!) It was presented as information. But then, from the back of the room someone objected. It was then Senator Sarah Manly. A Democrat senator from the upstate. They had those back then!
I couldn’t believe that Sarah, of all people, was objecting. But then she said, “We should not give our permission for Don to do this. Rather we should endorse it as a part of his ministry because his work with this group will help individuals that will never come into this church. He will be doing mission work!”
And the deacons unanimously approved.
And that has been the way I have approached my time on the board. It has been ministry. And so thank you for allowing me to live out this calling.
It has been an incredible journey, hasn’t it? As I was cleaning out my office I came across the DHEC statistics from 1993. That year there were 11,704 estimated pregnancies to teens. 11,704! Can you think of the lives that have been altered with the annual reduction of 8,000 teen pregnancies? We need, you need to be really proud of that!
There were 6 of us around that table that day. Last summer we had over 300 people at the Summer Institute.
Our first office was a closet at the old Carolina Inn, now look at this place!
I could go on and on about the organization, and all we have accomplished. But what I think I am most appreciative of are the incredible people I have gotten the opportunity to know. I remember sitting in those early meetings with Cassie Barber, Joanne Emerson, Francis Rushton—and just learning by osmosis. And what can I say about Murray Vincent?
To sit in board meetings with so many of you, trying to behave. I think we passed a motion that Martha Scott Smith and I couldn’t sit beside each other anymore!
Those individuals who have so ably led this group—Grant, Sue, Melissa, Lica, Judy Davis. I have learned so much from you. Your gifts, your passion make me hopeful for the future.
And to you the incredible staff. I know that many times we board members just rush in from time to time, but I want you to know how much we, how much I appreciate your work. You are the ones who give motion to our movement. And you follow in the path of so many who have gone before. Our first intern was Molly Talbot, now Molly Talbot Metz, former board chair, executive with the Mary Black Foundation. You never know where this experience will lead. And I want you to know how much I have learned from you, your expertise. Whether it is watching the way Kim and her cohorts put together the best teen pregnancy conference year after year; wandering down the hall to the Math department asking you to tell me something I don’t know.
I will never forget Shannon Flynn and how she completely upended my thinking in a meeting.
And to the those who have led this organization. Joy, I don’t know if I can every forgive you, or thank you enough for inviting me on this journey. Susan Boyd sent Gwen and Carol down to Charleston to see if I would be willing to come back on the board. Wha a risk!
And Forrest—we grew up together.
And Beth. You do not know how much this means to me.
One of my preacher friends called the other week and asked, rather nonchalantly, “How are you with leaving the campaign?” He knows how much you mean. But I nonchalantly brushed him off. Until Kay called and asked about this.
I just lost it!
There is a passage in the book of Hosea (you get this with a Baptist preacher) where as a rebuke to Israel, he names one of Lo-ammi. Not my people. My dearest friends know that you are Ammi. My people.
Melissa Holmes wrote me a note saying that she couldn’t be here and then ended with, “Canada doesn’t have a problem with teen pregnancy or gun violence. What will you do to get in trouble?”
I am sure I can find something, but if not, I am still an emeritus board member, so I can always get in trouble here.
Thank you. Thank you! Thank you for all you have meant, and will continue to mean! I really am looking forward to the adventure ahead for all of us!
The South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy is the foremost state organization in the country focused on teen pregnancy prevention. Over the past 26 years we have seen a 67% reduction in our teen birth rate! It has been a joy and a privilege to be a part of this group. I encourage you to be a part–with your financial gifts, with your support of comprehensive age appropriate sex education. It works! It makes a difference for all of us!