BY DEVIN HEFLIN, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Picture #1- 2016 Survivors honored from left to right: Jasmine Zow, Fay Cohen and Paula Gainous
Picture #2- Fay Cohen receiving the Proclamation from New Bethel AME Church for the "Faithful Fay" Survivor Luncheon
Picture #3- Guest speaker Ella Gilmore giving her testimony. She is also a survivor that was honored at the luncheon
Picture #4- Survivor Fay Cohen and Shayla Cohen during the Annual Fashion Show
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS - As part of a historic Black section of Altamonte Springs which featured the original Rosenwald School for Black Children and the historic Marker Street, where many of Altamonte’s Black residents interact and intersect, the street and section is home to New Bethel AME Church.
New Bethel stands on the northwest end of Marker Street, and has been a haven for worshippers since the present sanctuary was rebuilt by then pastor, Rev. Eugene Orr, in 1966. The road was originally named “Market” street in honor of the businesses that surrounded the area.
The John Bridges Community Center has been a part of South Apopka’s history since 1987. The Center hosts HeadStart programs, community action talks and the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parade, also co-hosted by the South Apopka Ministerial Alliance.
These two histories, from Altamonte Springs and Apopka, will meet on Saturday, Oct.21, for the Annual, “Faithful Fay’s Breast Cancer Survivor Luncheon”, hosted by New Bethel AME Church and facilitated at the John H. Bridges Community Center.
2017 marks the sixth year that the church from Marker Street will host the event, which has honored the story of member Fay Cohen, for the last two years.
“Fay’s been a member of our church for a long time. The church provides assistance for her as an active member and our Missionary Society takes an active role in this endeavor as well.” said Rev. Arnold Porter, pastor of New Bethel AME.
Porter said the church assists, but Fay and her daughter Shayla work in gathering all of the speakers and the educational resources for the event.
He’s served as the ministry’s pastor since 2012, and in that time, has worked to increase membership of the Christian Education Committee, adopt a more youth oriented outreach for the ministry and convene annually with the aforementioned survivor luncheon.
Pastor Porter was first ordained a Deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in September 1997 by Bishop Frank Curtis Cummings and an Itinerant Elder in October 2000 by Bishop John Hurst Adams. He is currently the Dean of Institute for ministerial studies of the Orlando District and a member of the Central Conference Board of Examiners.
Porter also serves as Hospital Chaplain for Orlando Health Systems.
Cohen’s daughter, Shayla, is a principal organizer of the event. “We started with this activity in 2011, originally in the church’s annex.” She said.
“For two years, we’ve hosted at John Bridges and the turnout has been amazing. People are educated and survivors give hope to women that may have received their diagnosis.”
Her mother, Fay, hopes the event will offer hope to survivors that a diagnosis is not a death sentence. “Just as it happened to me, it can happen to any other woman.” Cohen said. “We have to keep living. The luncheon is to encourage these women that it’s not over until God says it’s over.”
Cohen is an eight year Breast Cancer survivor. She recalls the very moment she heard the words, “you have breast cancer”. “I was initially discouraged, but I kept going to treatments, kept fighting, kept praying. I didn’t forget where my help comes from.” She said.
During her diagnosis, she continued to worship at New Bethel, where she has been an active member for fifty-two years.
Her parents before her were also members of the church for decades.
Today, cancer free, Cohen still serves as part of the Missionary Society, Christian Education Committee and as a mother in the church, which offers mentorship and advice to younger women.
“She hasn’t slowed down” Sheryl Blaine, assistant secretary to the Mass Choir said. “Fay is positive, cheerful and places joy into your life. She convinces you that you can do anything.”
Blaine has been an active member of New Bethel for twenty-one years. She migrated from Denver, Colorado, prior. Her husband’s grandfather was a founder of New Bethel and one of the church’s early pastors.
This year’s luncheon will feature a fashion show, comedy by Ken Miller and keynote speaker Lisa Hornton. There will also be three mini-speakers, one of which is Margaret Gispon, who is a fifteen year survivor, and keynote speaker from the first annual event.
The luncheon will be hosted between 11:00am to 2:00pm on Saturday, October 21, 2017. Tickets can be purchased by contacting either Fay Cohen or Sheryl Blaine. Same day tickets are $20.00 at the door.
Those that are unable to attend the luncheon can still make donations. All donations are tax deductible.