NAACP Honors Local Influencers


by Terry Rogers


On Saturday, May 11, 12 local individuals were honored at the 33rd Annual Fight for Freedom Fund Banquet hosted by the Milford-Slaughter Neck Branch of the NAACP. Former Milford City Councilman James O. Starling, Sr. was awarded the Community Leadership Award.

Starling has a long history of serving the Milford community, often seeking ways that he could help young people. He worked with Milford Recreation & Parks to help establish a summer program at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School and served as the director of the Slaughter Neck Community Action organization. For 25 years, Starling served as 4th Ward Councilman. He also served on the board of the Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club and the Milford Hospital Auxiliary. He was a fireman and the first African-American to become a Milford Citizen policeman. He is also a member of the Milford Elks and Mason Lodges.

“Sports has always been a hobby and I played until my body said stop,” Starling said. “I served as a certified baseball umpire for years and love my alma mater, Delaware State University, football team, whether they are good or bad. You can find me and my wife in the number one box seats at most games. It is truly an honor to receive this award. Like most people, I don’t do what I do for the thanks. I do it because I love the Lord and feel called upon to help others.”

Starling has been married to his wife, Jeanel Loretta Daniels since 1961, and they have two children, James Jr. and Lexine. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture in 1961 but was unable to secure a job during the segregated era. He took a job working nights at the Doxee Clam Factory in Lewes but was encouraged to return to school by his wife and mother. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education in 1963 and a Master’s in Education in 1977 from Salisbury State University. He taught 4th and 5th grade at East Millsboro Elementary School for 22 years before becoming a school student advisor/disciplinarian for ten years, retiring in 1995.

Unable to remain retired, Starling worked as a bus driver and director for Lewes Head Start for ten years. He is a member of Union Wesley United Methodist Church where his wife is a pastor although his home church is Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church in Lincoln. He and his wife have organized free Christmas meals on Christmas Day for many years, helped with Mountaire Thanksgiving packing and Thanksgiving Day to distribute meals to those in need.

Denice Russ received the Unsung Hero Award at the banquet for her quiet dedication to others through the St. Paul United Methodist Church in Milford. Russ works with the Usher Ministry, Youth and Children Ministry, Lay Servant Ministry, Communion Ministry and sings in the Gospel Choir. She has a heart full of love and joy, willing to help anyone who is in need.

Naomi Young was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for her work with needy families in the community through the New Frontier Club and her church. She is a member of the National Council of Negro Women, the NAACP, the Community Foundation and Club 13. She is also a member of the Rock of Ages Chapter #15, Order of the Eastern Stars. Friends and family say she is “completely selfless and ready to help wherever and whenever she can.”

Deshawn Potts received the Youth Award at the annual awards ceremony. Potts credits his grandparents, who raised him, and his pastor, Rev. Jean Wylie, with the many blessings that have been bestowed upon him over the years. He attends Cape Henlopen High School and will graduate this year. He is a member of the Raising Student Voice and Participation group and earned the Senior Army Instructor Award for Cape Henlopen High School JROTC. He is currently employed as a manager at Midway Speedway in Rehoboth and plans to enlist in the military as a Private First Class with the Delaware Army National Guard.

“I am the youngest person in Delaware to have a secret clearance to high level security places,” Potts said. “The decision that I made opened a lot of eyes at my school, showing how one person can change minds and perceptions of other people. I became a mentor to some other students in lower class grades so that I can teach them the things that I did to be able to achieve my goals. I would like to thank Mrs. Sauls for giving me a chance to be a Vice-President of the Youth Milford Slaughter Neck NAACP.”

Other young people who received awards at the banquet included Lauren Becton, Jaedon Cephas, Tyquan Daniels, Ry’ana Johnson and Jasmine Starling.

Martina Duffy received a Milford Area Church Award at the celebration. Martina, the daughter of Fred and Delema Duffy, says that she was taught an early age how important education was in order to succeed in life. She graduated from Milford High School in 1988 and earned a Bachelor in Business Administration and Marketing from Delaware State University. She has dedicated her adult life to family services, promoting and supporting charity while embracing the community that helped shape what she is today. She has a daughter, Ashlee Duffy-Youmans and son-in-law Devon Youmans. She is a proud grandmother to Aree and Desire Youmans. She was recognized for her work at Mount Enon Baptist Church.

“It was an awesome experience to be recognized for what I do,” Duffy said. “I am at a lot of events in service to others. One of the most important things I do is feed the homeless. We offer meals and hygiene products to them at our church and, when they can’t come to me, I go to them, delivering meals and other services. I have been doing this for many years. We have a Christmas and Easter event that is attended by people as far away as Smyrna and Delmar. I am very appreciative of the blessings I have. God gave me the ability to assist others and I want to lead and enjoy giving back to those who are less fortunate. It is my belief that I need to share the blessings that God has given me.”

Angela Stevens was also awarded a Milford Area Church Award for her work with the St. Paul United Methodist Church.

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