By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Rett Peek
As ardent advocates for the health + welfare of all Arkansans, Doris and Oscar Washington Jr. graciously planned to welcome guests to the 2018 Central Arkansas American Heart Association Heart Ball. However, in April of 2017 Oscar passed away unexpectedly from an undetected heart condition. His wife and daughters courageously continued with plans to host the Heart Ball – as a tribute to Oscar’s civic leadership and commitment to improving the lives of fellow Arkansans. The evening celebrated the life of a man with a great love for Christ, his family and career.
Oscar believed that the union of education + hard work are the key to success. His friend and fellow Saint Mark Baptist Church parishioner Mark Leverett shares this philosophy for a brighter future for younger generations. The Oscar Washington Jr. Scholarship Fund was established by Oscar’s family and confidants to continue this legacy and provide opportunities for others to make positive change happen. Mark serves as chairman of the Oscar Washington Jr. Scholarship Fund and remains unwavering in the organization’s vision. “After Oscar passed, we were all stunned,” Mark remembers. “Doris asked me to take the lead in fundraising and organizing the annual Oscar Washington Jr. Scholarship Banquet. We, as an organization, are blessed to be able to play a small part in putting kids in the position to gain something – education – that will demand respect everywhere they may go in life.”
A native Arkansan, Mark can’t imagine life anywhere else. “Our state is progressive enough to allow industrious people to make a good living, be sufficiently entertained and raise children. My roots are here – family, church, business – and it makes it easy to be invested.” He is a deacon at Saint Mark Baptist Church and serves on the P.A.R.K. (Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids) Board of Directors. Mark recognizes the power of Christian fellowship to transform lives and admits, “Anything that is successful, I take no personal credit – all glory belongs to the Lord. My greatest personal success revolved around family and making my parents proud by getting an education and contributing to the community.”
These values are at the heart of the Oscar Washington Jr. Scholarship Fund mission fulfillment work – cultivating character through education that enriches the lives of individuals and communities. The scholarships are “open to all students, statewide,” notes Mark. ”We worked to diversify our recipient class this year and, by the grace of God, we did!” The increase in applicants is a testament to the invaluable resources that the fund provides to recipients. With a small but mighty team of volunteers, the organization awarded $20,000 in scholarships.
“Oscar was passionate about making a difference in every aspect of his life. We hope the scholarship fund continues that tradition of excellence and service – with a simple reminder of how important it is to know yourself, be a spiritual person and give back to your community.” Doris explains. Mark adds, “Our work is contributing to the well-being of the next generation. We feel blessed to do what we are doing.”