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When students found out that longtime community leader Howard Jones died in November, they were upset.
The children, who are a part of the After School All-Stars program at Seeds of Hope House, knew they wanted to do something to honor not only Jones, but his legacy.
“They knew him,” said Priscilla Morello, executive director of Seeds of Hope Wilson, which is located on Viola Street. “They knew his legacy. They knew he helped the community.”
The third-graders decided to make sure Jones, who founded the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Wilson in 1972, would never be forgotten.
On Thursday, the students unveiled a mural they designed to ensure Jones’ legacy of helping others lives on in the community. Dozens gathered for the dedication, led by the students.
“He made many contributions to the lives of people in Wilson and in eastern North Carolina,” third-grader Mahkiya Best told the crowd gathered outside. “He helped them get training so they could get jobs. He was able to help people in Wilson get food on the holidays. Howard Jones did so much to help our community. He inspires us to help others, too.”
‘HE LOVED PEOPLE’
For more than 40 years, Jones worked countless hours to bring hope to others. Jones, who died on Nov. 27 at age 84, believed that no matter where people came from or where they were going, if they were provided an opportunity, they could have a future, a promise and ultimately, a life of hope and purpose.
Jones’ wife, Sylvia, was overcome with emotion Thursday as the students unveiled the mural in honor of her husband.
“This was Howard’s life,” she said. “He loved people. And I thank you children for being such good people for helping carry his legacy on.”
The children listened as Sylvia Jones continued speaking to those in attendance.
“I thank you all so much for what you’ve done and what you’re going to do for him,” she said. “Just keeping on doing. That’s what it’s all about — helping one another. That’s what God wants us to do. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what job you’ve got or where you live. It’s all going to boil down one day to this — what did you do for mankind?”
About 16 children are a part of the After School All-Stars program. Seeds of Hope, a nonprofit, partners with Vick Elementary School to promote student achievement and wellbeing through a variety of programs.
Morello said the children also wanted to perform other projects to honor Jones and uplift the OIC and the agency’s work in the community. The children also created a newsletter honoring Jones’ life. Some students wrote articles and took pictures.
“We decided this would be a wonderful way to help tell the community about Mr. Jones and OIC,” Morello said, adding that Seeds of Hope will be sending out the newsletter via email to various community members. The children also created handmade notecards designed with their very own artwork thanks to Anita’s Marketing Concepts. The children began selling those notecards Thursday. And all the proceeds will benefit Howard Jones’ OIC Scholarship Fund.
Attorney Robert Farris, the OIC of Wilson’s board chairman and a longtime friend of Jones, told the children Thursday they were honoring an “all-star.”
“And the more you know about him, he will become your hero, too,” Farris said.
Third-grader Kelvin Hinnant Jr. said while the projects they did for Jones took a long time, the effort was worth it.
“We knew it was going to be great,” he said.
Notes of encouragement can be mailed to the After School All-Stars at PO Box 2262, Wilson, NC 27894. For more information about Seeds of Hope and its programs, call 252-236-8673.