2022 UMA Mission Awards

The 2022 UMA Mission Award to an Organization

The Bethlehem Center
Chattanooga, TN

For 101 years, the Bethlehem Center has served in South Chattanooga guided by their mission to empower inner-city youth and families through education, discipleship, and leadership development. The Bethlehem Center has deep roots in their community, and has acted as a leader in strategic planning, afterschool literacy and education, economic development, and poverty awareness.

Executive Director Reginald F. Smith II has led the organization for six years. He and his team have transformed The Bethlehem Center, navigating financial challenges, personnel shortages, facilities issues, and crises. At a time when all leaders were scaling back and tightening their finances, Reginald committed to keeping all staff employed throughout the pandemic. When state funding for virtual learning centers was cut and those jobs hung in the balance, the team made the decision to keep everyone employed and look for alternative funding to support payroll and other expenses.

The Read to Lead Academy is “The Beth’s” primary educational program, focused on literacy, math, science, technology, arts, and culture. The program provides students a safe place during out of school time where they can grow academically, socially, and spiritually, with a more recent emphasis on Social-Emotional Learning. This addition was in direct response to the prevalence and significant public health implications of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and trauma.

At a time when schools were forced to close The Bethlehem Center stepped up to the plate, opening their site as a virtual learning center for Hamilton County Schools, and providing over 16,000 hours of service to children and families in South Chattanooga, and over 30,000 meals to those in need. They made weekly check-in calls and delivered sanitation supplies to a regular list of over eighty shut-in seniors, as provided utility cutoff assistance and rent assistance for those struggling. Throughout the pandemic, they kept the after school and summer camp programs open and running safely, allowing kids to cherish a sense of normalcy during this unprecedented time.

The Bethlehem Center has a remarkable history of mission attainment, and they are on the forefront of visionary service to their community.


The 2022 UMA Mission Award to an Individual

Reverend David Mark Owens
Otterbein Franklin SeniorLife
Franklin, IN

Rev. David Mark Owens has dedicated 23 years as Chaplain of Franklin United Methodist Community, now known as Otterbein Franklin. Throughout those years of ministering to our residents, partners, and guests, he has also represented Otterbein SeniorLife through involvement in numerous community organizations.

Rev. Owens has been a key supporter of residents and staff within his own community. In addition to his daily tasks of leading church services, bible studies, supporting those who are grieving, and providing prayer, he has actively led the "Franklin Flyers" fitness and wellness group to help residents achieve their goals in walking, running, and fitness challenges.

In the external community, Rev. Owens has exemplified service in mission and ministry. With 21 years as the volunteer chaplain to the Johnson County Sheriff's Office, he has received the recognition by the International Conference of Police Chaplains as State and International Chaplain of the Year. He has served as the volunteer chaplain at the Indianapolis International Airport and the Indiana Guard Reserve and was the proud recipient of the Indiana Commendation Medal from the Governor of Indiana in 2011.

In his local community, Rev. Owens has been the President of the Johnson County Ministerial Association, and for 15 years as Lead Chaplain of Johnson Memorial Hospital. He has been the coordinator of the Greenwood City Council Invocation Program for the past 15 years, and he is a docent for Warner Salman Gallery at Anderson University, as well as a member and presenter for the Indiana Conference Committee on Health Ministries.

Rev. Owens is passionate about his involvement with disaster response and the American Red Cross. To date, he has assisted with four hurricanes, three crisis teams, three tornadoes, two plane crashes, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

His significant years of service give a true picture of Rev. Owens as an individual. As noted in his nomination by Franklin administrator Anji Sullivan, “he is selfless, caring, compassionate and always wanting to give of himself; whether that's time, talent, or treasures. The residents and partners of Otterbein Franklin are blessed to have his experience and caring attitude. His dedication not only shows within his work, but his commitment to community and his commitment to family.”

A faithful member of UMA, Rev. David Owens has attended every annual meeting since 1989, and throughout his storied career has shown his commitment to his faith, his family, his community, and the world around him.