FLORENCE — Larry Softley said he will never forget the first Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast he attended.
“We had 30 people, that was all,” Softley said of that event 22 years ago.
That has changed somewhat. In fact, the breakfast event grew faster than anyone anticipated.
“Now, we’ll have 600-plus for the breakfast,” Softley said. “It’s really unbelievable.”
The 22nd Annual Unity Breakfast will be Monday at the Shoals Conference Center from 8-10 a.m. The event is hosted by the Kappa Nu Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
“The breakfast has really been very successful over the years,” said Softley, a member of the fraternity. “It’s a bringing together of the community and that’s what it was all about — unity.”
Rod Sheppard, director of education activities for the chapter, said proceeds from the breakfast provide scholarships for students from northwest Alabama.
Softley said the chapter has been able to give out more than 50 scholarships through the years.
“We see firsthand what good the scholarships have done,” Sheppard said. “The community sees what we are trying to do and have really gotten involved in this.”
He said chapter members used to really have to push ticket sales.
“Now, people are calling us for tickets,” he said. “We have people tell us they will come just to support what we are doing.
“There is a spirit in that room, a feeling of unity that you can’t explain. Everybody coming together focused just on the community. It’s an awesome event.”
Tickets for the event are $25 each or $225 for a table of eight. Tickets can be purchased by calling Cedric Adams, chairman of the breakfast, at 256-764-0756.
Sheppard said this year’s theme is “Life in the 21st Century, are you/we living the dream?”
The guest speaker is Anthony Sparks, of Birmingham. Sparks, the executive director of the Birmingham YMCA Youth Center, is a graduate of the University of North Alabama, where in 2002, he became the first African-American chosen as Freshman Leader and then in 2005, he was elected president of the Student Government Association, only the fifth African-American to hold the position.
“The breakfast has become the kind of event that people look forward to and want to be a part of,” Softely said.
“Everyone is put on earth for a reason,” Sheppard said. “You are suppose to give back and minister to your community, and that’s what we are doing through the breakfast.”
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.