Award Winner Bios

Local Church Heritage Award
Tanner Williams UMC

The winner of the 2019 Local Church Heritage Award is Tanner Williams United Methodist Church of Mobile, Alabama.  They just celebrated their 100th Anniversary in 2018.  They celebrated this occasion with a special service and meal on October 21, 2018.  Some of their other exciting events happening this year were to create a special quilt, continue their church history, bury a time capsule, dedicate a Historical Marker, receive a silver Baptismal Pitcher from the UMW and receive the Guardian of the Bell Award.  The Tanner Williams UMC presented a beautiful scrapbook along with their application to commemorate their celebration.  You can view this scrapbook at the Commission On Archives And History table in the atrium during Annual Conference. 


One Matters Award
Haleburg UMC

Two women, Jane Pitchford and Gayle Thomas, and their pastor Tony Rosetta began visiting the unchurched people in their community. They took them a small gift - home baked cookies and invited them to church. As people began to come they were given a key to the church and told they were welcome to come and pray anytime they wanted and if they saw something that needed fixing they were welcome to take care of it. One by one people began to show up, the spirit of joy was tangible and pretty soon others began to come. They have had a couple of community events.  In the fall they had a chuck wagon party. Good food and fellowship. In the fall of 2015 there were three people. They now are worshipping about 60 with approximately 15 children. 


Francis Asbury Award
Mr. Lee Thomas

Mr. Lee Thomas has been dedicated to the work of the Tuskegee Wesley Foundation and Tuskegee University since 2009. A life-long United Methodist born into Locust Bluff UMC  in Prattville, Alabama. After a 40 year career with Philadelphia Steel, Mr. Lee and his wife Henrietta relocated  to Alabama and became faithful members of Millbrook UMC. Mr. Lee encouraged Millbrook UMC to give faithfully above and beyond its apportionments to all Wesley Foundations, particularly Tuskegee Wesley.

In 2015 Mrs. Henrietta Lee, the wife of Mr. Lee Thomas, lost her battle with cancer. For years this couple faithfully served together in various leadership positions within the church. These roles have included serving as Chair of the Tuskegee Wesley Board, delegates to Annual Conference, Chair of the Board of Trustees and active membership in United Methodist Women and United Methodist Men. Mr. Lee's commitment to giving Wesley Foundations voice at all levels of the church is unmatched and has been replicated with Tuskegee Wesley students aspiring and seeking leadership roles beyond Wesley.

After the death of his wife, Mr. Thomas remained committed to Tuskegee Wesley as an honorary board member and by encouraging students to focus on developing their mind and healthy eating habits.  It was from his passion as a master gardener that the idea for the Tuskegee Wesley Community garden was birthed.  Since 2017 with funding from the AWF BHECM, the expertise of master gardener, and in partnership with Tuskegee University and corporate sponsors the garden has thrived.

Since its launch in 2017 the Wesley Community garden has donated 450 pounds of food to the Macon County Food Bank, involved more than 50 Wesley students in its maintenance and upkeep, and has inspired the relaunch of three community gardens on University land.  By giving over 300 hours above and beyond his commitment to the Board, Mr. Lee Thomas has inspired a generation of Tuskegee Wesley students to care for God's creation and to  watch what they eat, and to live a healthy life.

Because of Mr. Lee Thomas' love for  God, family, community and gardening, Tuskegee Wesley has become a leader in inspiring conversations in Macon County and nationally on issues of food insecurity and health disparities among African Americans.  The Tuskegee Wesley garden has been featured in noted magazines on higher education like Diverse Issues in Higher Education, been invited to health disparities conferences and given hundreds of Tuskegee students healthy food to eat. Mr. Lee embodies the ideals of Francis Asbury.


Mary Mildred Sullivan Award, Huntingdon College
Bishop David Graves

Huntingdon College is one of a select number of Southern colleges and universities authorized by the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation of Oxford, Mississippi, to recognize annually a non-student who possesses spiritual qualities such that the "spiritual standard of the institution may be judged by the character of the person to whom the award is made." Huntingdon is honored to present the 2019 Mary Mildred Sullivan Award to Bishop David Graves.  

Huntingdon is, first and foremost, a College of the Church.  Its mission encourages all students to engage in their own individual vocational journeys within a community that respects and prioritizes the free discernment of vocation in the context of broad, historic Wesleyan practical divinity.  As such, Huntingdon College is a ministry of the United Methodist Church and the Alabama - West Florida Conference,  expressing its institutional faithfulness to The United Methodist Discipline in a manner consistent with that mission.  Huntingdon's mission marks it as a place of hospitality, a "big tent," where all are welcome into the College's rare and unique educational community for reflection, prayer, serious academic study, and ultimately discernment around the most important spiritual question of a person's life:  "What are the gifts with which I have been endowed by God, and how am I to use those gifts to serve God and my fellow human beings?"

In this time of denominational turbulence, Bishop Graves has calmly embodied the ministry of hospitality, respectfully listening to all under his pastoral care and welcoming them into a prayerful journey to discern the mission of the United Methodist Church and the ways their gifts may be apportioned by the Spirit for the upbuilding of the Church.  His faithful episcopal commitment to the unity of the Body of Christ–while recognizing and honoring the diversity of gifts within the Body  --  and his focus on the importance of the episcopal teaching office in discerning the shape of that unity moving forward are windows into the spiritual mission of Huntingdon College.  Indeed, with the counsel of Bishop Graves, the College has forthrightly identified itself as a "holding place" for the denomination, welcoming all, where the direction of the United Methodist Church and the Alabama - West Florida Conference can be discerned and formed in the immediate years ahead.  With the leadership of Bishop Graves, Huntingdon is honoring its long history as a ministry of the United Methodist Church, it is serving the present age in a manner reflecting that history, and it is fostering a spiritual environment conducive to discerning prayerfully the future shape of the Church. 

The spiritual standard of Huntingdon College may certainly be judged by the character of its episcopal leader, and the College's spiritual standard is being shaped for a new day through the non-anxious, irenic influence of its episcopal leader.  Bishop David Graves is a most worthy and deserving recipient of the 2019 Mary Mildred Sullivan Award.  


Denman Evangelism Award
Clergy Recipient: Rev. Dunford Cole

Rev. Dunford Cole has served as the pastor of the Campground and Rutledge United Methodist Churches near Luverne, AL for the past 5 years.  A member of one of his churches, Taylor Stewart, says “Rev. Cole….strives daily to show others the amazing love of Jesus Christ not only through word, but also through action.”  His ministry is characterized by outreach to the community. 

Rev. Cole serves as a teacher and mascot at Crenshaw Christian Academy.  He transports children and youth to church ministries.  He leads efforts to provide snacks and coats to area schools for needly students.  Rev. Cole ministers to senior adults at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  His churches provide Easter baskets of love to the residents of these facilities.

People of all ages throughout the community know Rev. Cole and have been impacted by his evangelism and love for Christ.  He has led numerous people to begin a relationship with Christ or to deepen their current relationship with our Lord.  About 30 people have joined his churches as a result of his ministry!


Youth Recipient: Ambery Gay
Amber Gay is a dedicated member at Robinson Springs United Methodist Church in Millbrook, AL.  She recently graduated from Prattville Christian Academy.  Her pastor, the Rev. Janet Krantz, says, “Amber truly embodies the character and passion of a disciple of Christ--proclaiming His love and message for the purpose of making other disciples of Christ  for the transformation of the world….” “She actively shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ with boldness, love and courage outside the walls of the church.”

Amber has brought friends to her youth group, proclaimed God’s Word in chapel services at her school (encouraging students to accept Christ and to live for Him), and has led an effort to provide age-appropriate Bibles for thirty first-grade girls who didn’t have a Bible.  She uses her influence to point others toward Faith in and reliance upon Christ.  Rev. Krantz concludes, “We don’t know the actual number of people who have been affected by the witness and love of Christ shown to them by Amber, for she serves quietly, consistently, humbly, and without attention to herself.”


Lay Recipient: Matt Hull
Matt Hull has served as youth minister for Trinity UMC in Ft. Walton Beach, FL for twelve years.  His pastor, the Rev. Dr. Scott Hohn, reports that under Matt’s leadership the youth group attendance has grown from 2 to 50, with a high of 100.  One of the products of Matt’s ministry is the Rev. Jack Allen.  Though not a participant in Matt’s youth ministry, Rev. Allen relates that is was Matt who invested in him during a time of personal crisis as a college student.  Matt both taught and demonstrated to Jack what life in Christ looks like.  It was Matt who first recognized Jack’s gifts and graces for ministry, prompting Matt to give Jack opportunities to do ministry.  Matt encouraged Jack to pursue vocational ministry.  Rev. Allen says, “I’m a pastor today in large part because of Matt Hull.”

A major outreach for Matt in the community is in the halls of Pryor Middle School.  Matt has intentionally developed relationships with the students and faculty.  He serves as a character coach for athletic teams and with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter.  He is seen with the teams in multiple sports.  Many of the the students participate in Matt’s youth ministry at Trinity.  Several of them have been baptized and have chosen to follow Christ.  Some of their parents and other family members have also professed faith in Christ.  Rev. Allen states, “Matt’s passion is to build relationships with students while discipling them and reaching new students for Christ.  My life, along with so many others, have become testimonies to Matt’s work in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”


Alice Lee Award
Geraldine Stiffler

Gerry is known in her community as a business woman, Chamber member, Rotary Club member, Theater worker, Hospice worker and general go getter for South Baldwin County.

In her church work she is Baypines District President of UMW, Foley UMC she is COSROW Chair, membership secretary, Galilean Committee which provides worship services at Gulf State Park from Mother’s Day until Labor Day.  She also works with youth and children’s programs, AWFC: Episcopacy Committee, Annual conference member.

Gerry says that her gift is “getting people to do things”.  Truly it is.  Foley Kids Corner is a fundraiser held at Foley UMC for missions which involved the South Baldwin Community coming together.  Also the Lenten Lunches have been held community-wide for a number of years.   The mission is “We’re working together to make our community great by understanding one another.” 

She is a very busy and involved person with a calling to get things.  She makes a difference, as only she can, wherever she is participating.


The United Methodist Credit Union Scholarship
Rebekah Antonelli

Rebekah Antonelli was born in Lexington, KY, and at the age of 4, moved to the Alabama-West Florida Conference where her dad was appointed as a pastor. She graduated from Marengo Academy in Linden, AL in 2017 and is currently entering her junior year at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, where she is majoring in social work with an eye toward a Masters in Social Work. This summer, she will be traveling to Chincha Alta, Peru to work at a church and in a school. Next spring, she will be studying abroad in Uganda, Africa. UMC FCU is proud to support her in her calling and passion.


Susanna Wesley Award
Judy Reiter

Mrs. Judy Reiter is a member of the First United Methodist Church of Samson, Alabama.  She has served the local church in various offices.  Now serving on the leadership team Samson FUMC Celebrate Recovery, cooking meals and sharing God’s love, Co-leading Step-Study Class.

Mrs. Reiter has been a devoted member of the Alabama West Florida Conference United Methodist Church.  She had become a Lay Speaker in 1980 when Roy Jeffcoat was Andalusia Lay Speaker Director.  She was elected to the Conference Committee on Lay Speaking in 1994. Trained to teach Partners in Ministry in 1995.  She assisted Dr. Tony Trueblood in teaching the program in Texas, Missouri, Georgia and Alabama.  Served as Conference Lay Speaking Director 1998-2004.

In 2003 Mrs. Reiter was elected Vice Chairman of the Southeast Jurisdiction Association of Conference Directors of Lay Speaking and responsible for planning training events. Also, in 2003 Mrs. Reiter represented SEJ at national training event by teaching the Basic Lay Speaking course at Lake Junaluska in July.  She served as delegate to SEJ Conference. Served 8 years as Dothan District Director of Lay Speaking.  She also served as Certified Disaster Relief Volunteer where she has served on many mission teams in other countries and local counties.  Help to lead Dothan District Mission trip to Appalachia where they joined the US Army in providing health services to residents of Murphy, Andrews, Bryson City and other local areas.

Mrs. Judy Reiter personal vision statement was stated “Making the Invisible Christ Visible”.  She Always felt her calling from God Equip and motivate the Laity to Serve.  Planned many training events, taught many classes.  Encourage those who found a deeper calling through Lay Speaking Ministries.