After long-time Blair County NAACP President Donald E. Witherspoon passed, community leaders and activists scrambled to find ways to maintain his legacy and create a new sense of purpose in Blair County and beyond. On June 25, 2021, Neil Rudel (Chief Editor of the Altoona Mirror), Steve Sheetz (Chairman of Sheetz, Inc.), Erica McNeal (Secretary Officer, Blair County NAACP), and Andraé Holsey (President, Blair County NAACP) met at the Altoona Mirror offices with these concerns in mind. From that meeting, The Freedom Fighter Gala was born.
An annual event recognizing and remembering Freedom Fighters from Central PA who impacted national civil rights, The Blair Co. NAACP is proud to host its second electric evening of engagement, solidarity, and recognition on Oct. 25, 2022 from 5:30-9PM. With over 300 people in attendance last year, we have expanded our seating capability, but must limit ticket sales due to venue limitations. To reserve a seat, tickets must be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2nd-annual-freedom-fighter-gala-tickets-435653119207. All proceeds benefit the NAACP’s Freedom Fund, enabling us to grant scholarships, engage institutions, and act upon the mission of the NAACP in our community.
This year we will be remembering the accomplishments of the late Virginia Hansard-Day, and recognizing William Lightner for his ongoing achievements. Biographies on these two legendary Freedom Fighters will be posted in the coming days.
If you missed last year’s event, honoring the legacy of Donald E. Witherspoon and recognizing the achievements of Dr. Zane Gates, then we encourage you to check out the photos below. With recognition of scholarship awardees through the Sheetz Fellows Program at Penn State University – Altoona, impactful statements by PA State Rep. Jim Gregory and past-Senator/Lt. Governor Bob Jubelirer, and powerful performances by the PennSOULvanians, the First Freedom Fighter Gala did not disappoint. We are grateful to the Sheetz, Gates, and Witherspoon families for their impact on the audience and continued dedication to the mission of this organization.
The Blair County NAACP is happy to announce that we are returning for a second year with our Prospect Park Pumpkin Patch! This is an excellent opportunity for people of all ages to learn about Fall Festivities around the world, learn about NAACP initiatives in our community, and meet with neighbors and friends. We look forward to seeing you at Prospect Park in Altoona this upcoming Thursday!
The Scorchin’ Boxing Gym, under the direction of Blair Co. NAACP Treasurer Jeremiah Witherspoon, hosted an NAACP-sponsored boxing match the Saturday before Easter. Tickets sold fast, with people from New Jersey to Pittsburgh coming to support the young boxers. Branch #2252 took the opportunity to table for support and take as many pictures of the bouts as possible. Those pictures can be found below.
The NAACP is committed to supporting local youth, while instilling self-confidence, self-empowerment, and self-preservation in them. These tenets are reinforced through Scorchin’ Gym’s Leaders of Tomorrow (L.O.T.) Program, which benefits from the proceeds of matches like this. We encourage you to learn more about the gym at https://www.scorchinboxing.com/ and to check out the L.O.T. program at https://leadersoftomorrow.foundation/.
Throughout the month of October and into the month of November, the Blair County NAACP conducted several meetings to raise voter awareness and mobilize souls to the polls. The Blair County Branch, under the leadership of President Andrae Holsey, co-organized and hosted a Candidate forum with Indivisible – Blair County and the PSU Altoona Political Science Society on Penn State University – Altoona Campus at the Laurel Pavilion. This event provided students and community members the opportunity to engage local election candidates, meet local non-profit groups committed towards racial and economic justice, and register both to vote and/or join the NAACP. Attendees included Blair County NAACP President Andrae Holsey, PSU Altoona Chancellor Dr. Lori Bechtel-Wherry, AASD School Board Member Rick Hoover, AASD School Board Candidate Tina Johnston, Altoona City Council Member Dave Butterbaugh, Altoona City Council Candidates Bridgette Jackson, Mike Leonard, and Dave Ellis, PSU Political Science Society President Maleah Orr, Indivisible – Blair County President Carol Evon Taylor, dozens of other community acitivists and dozens of community members.
The event was such a success that PSU Altoona Student, Eilinora Hesther was inspired to partner with the PSU Altoona Office of Diversity & Inclusion, under the leadership of Sue Patterson, to host a second event on November 1st, allowing students from Economically-Disadvantaged and LGBTQ+, Ethno-racial, , and Religious minority groups to question several candidates on how they could serve their individual communities. Darius Morgan, Bridgette Jackson, and Mike Leonard answered questions from the public with support from Sue Patterson, Blair County NAACP Executive Committee Member / Former- Blair County Commissioner Donna Gority, and President Holsey.
The dialogue fostered at each of these events, as well as several other community-focused events welcoming local election candidates to express their views offered promise for peoples in minority communities and began the steps necessary to ensure racial, educational, economic, genderal, and religious equality in Blair County and beyond.
This past December, the Blair Co. NAACP Chapter #2252 bid farewell to its president of the past 3 decades. Blair Co. NAACP past-President Don “Spoon” Witherspoon passed away on December 27th, 2020, at the age of 77, from complications related to COVID-19. Don was a father-figure to the community, a mentor to the troubled, and a voice of reason in times when tensions were high. He is remembered as a staunch advocate for the rights of the incarcerated, people of color, and the impoverished. Since the late-1980s, Don oversaw the operation of the Blair Co. NAACP, administering hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships and business financial aid, visiting with inmates at the Blair Co. Jail to ensure that they were treated fairly, and recognizing and awarding leadership on athletic fields, in classrooms, in courtrooms, and in the community. For more about Don’s life and legacy, please visit any of the links below: