Edinboro University Honors Community Leader

Category:  News
Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 at 8:00 PM
Edinboro University Honors Community Leader by Macala Leigey

“How can people do this to other people?” The profound thought crossed the little girl’s mind, as she stood timidly holding her mother’s hand. They were confused and soaking wet from the violent slashing she and several other “colored people” received from a fire hose during the notorious Birmingham march.

Erie community leader and 2016 recipient of Edinboro University’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. award, Lawanda Bender-Goodwine, is one of the many individuals who has lived through the Civil Rights Movement era, and has experienced historical moments such as the Birmingham march.

“I remember that [Birmingham march] greatly. I think that’s when I first realized that people didn’t like us [African Americans] for whatever reason. It was a devastating time,”

Bender-Goodwine said. Bender-Goodwine grew up in Alabama and Mississippi during the early 1960s, in which both her mother and father were active Civil Rights advocates. Bender-Goodwine shared that her father was a local pastor and acquaintance of King Jr.

“Whenever Rev. King and my dad would meet, my dad would just walk around the corner to Rev. King’s home,” Bender-Goodwine said.

Bender-Goodwine also shared that as a child she would sometimes accompany her father to his meetings with the Rev. King to visit with King’s children.

“I had the privilege of playing with Rev. King’s daughter and son. Of course that was natural kid stuff. No big deal to us.”

By being surrounded by such prominent Civil Rights activists and experiencing historic Civil Rights Movement events , Bender- Goodwine developed a passion for making a difference in people’s lives at a young age.

During the historic 1965 march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama, Bender- Goodwine passed out sandwiches and water to tired marchers who stopped in White Hall, Alabama for a break.

“My claim to fame is that I handed out sandwiches and water [to marchers]. I loved it,” Bender- Goodwine said.

Since her earliest acts of outreach, Bender-Goodwine has continued to show her compassion for others by doing missionary work and community projects.

Bender-Goodwine, along with her husband, the Rev. Amos Goodwine Jr., and brother-in-law, Leroy Goodwine, developed the Goodwine Foundation, which has donated to and established scholarships at several institutions including Edinboro University, Porreco College, State University of New York at Fredonia, and the Erie Community Foundation.

Bender-Goodwine explained that the Goodwine Foundation was established during her days as a high school administrator at East High School in Erie. After noticing how many homeless students attended East High, and realizing how few were able to continue their education at the collegiate level, Bender-Goodwine facilitated the establishment of the Goodwine Foundation.

“It started with me saying to a student ‘are you ready for your prom, are you ready for your graduation, and the young man said to me ‘Mrs. Goodwine I can’t go. I don’t have any good clothes,’” Bender-Goodwine said.

After hearing the young man’s predicament, Bender-Goodwine called her husband and brotherin- law and requested that they buy the young man, along with other students in need, dress clothes.

“Then I found out that some of the students were not going to college, because they couldn’t afford it. They might be graduating with a 2.4 or 2.0 [GPA] and most scholarships were going to that student with the 3.0 or above,” Bender-Goodwine said.

With this realization, Bender- Goodwine focused the Goodwine Foundation on aiding young people in academic endeavors.

“The mission of the Goodwine Foundation was to focus on the lower east side of Erie, but not limited to Erie County,” Bender- Goodwine said.

In addition to overseeing the Goodwine Foundation, Bender- Goodwine has been actively involved in several other community and global outreach projects, including the Bonner program at Allegheny College, the teen pregnancy prevention program, and extensive missionary work in the country of Guyana.

“Everything else that I do is just based on that philosophy that we’re all blessed to be a blessing. In the community here in Erie, it’s normal for me to do what I do, cause that’s what I grew up doing. My father used to say, ‘If you see the need, you feel the need,’” Bender-Goodwine said.

Bender-Goodwine also expressed her love for the community work she has done, especially with young people.

“My biggest joy of my service is that there’s a new generation of service workers coming in.”

Bender-Goodwine will receive the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. award on Feb. 19, when the university hosts the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Luncheon. More than 40 community leaders have been recognized with the distinguished award since 1997.

“I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this honor. It’s amazing that somebody knows my name. For that I am greatly humbled. I am beyond blessed by this.”

Macala Leigey is the News Editor for The Spectator and she can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

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