Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

1404 East 9th Street | Cleveland, Ohio 44114

Scholarship funds raised, Vanessa Griffin Campbell honored at 2018 Harambee Gala

About 250 people turned out for the second Harambee Gala on Sept. 29 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Mayfield Village. The event, sponsored by St. Agnes /Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Cleveland raises funds for the St. Agnes /Our Lady of Fatima Parish Education Assistance Fund, which helps provide money to educate students within the parish boundaries.

Vanessa Griffin Campbell, who retired last December after more than 30 years in ministry in the Diocese of Cleveland, also was honored at the gala for her faith in action. Most recently, she served as director of the Office of African American Ministry.

Harambee is a Swahili word that means coming together for cooperation and success.  The theme of this year’s gala was “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.”

Education is a key to providing a good future for today’s youth, said Father Bob Marva, OFM Cap., St. Agnes /Our Lady of Fatima pastor. Qualifying adults who want to continue their education also can seek a grant from the scholarship fund, he added. The first 25 applicants will be considered with up to 10 awards given annually, based on the return of the principal in the fund.

Application deadline is April 1, 2019. For more information on the scholarship fund or for an application, visit, call 216-391-1655 or write to St. Agnes /Our Lady of Fatima Church, 6800 Lexington, Ave., Cleveland, Ohio 44103.

“The scholarship fund is open to any student within our geographic boundaries – East 55th Street north to Superior Avenue and east to East 105th Street, south to the railroad tracks and to Grand Avenue,” Father Bob said.  “In the words of Bishop (emeritus Anthony) Pilla, ‘We don’t do this because they are Catholic – we do it because we are Catholic.’”

Griffin Campbell’s daughter, Gyta Martin, introduced her and talked about how her mother’s ministry was reflected in their family life.

“She is devoted to her church and is a wonderful example of what we celebrate tonight,” Martin said, referring to the Harambee theme. “She taught me that if you have the means and someone needs help, you help. I am so grateful that my mother is who she is,” Martin added.

The audience enjoyed a brief video with tributes to Griffin Campbell from Bishop Pilla; Sister Rita Mary Harwood, director of the diocesan Parish Life Office, under which Griffin Campbell worked;  Father Bob and others.

Bishop Pilla recalled how Griffin Campbell “explained the African-American Catholic to us . . . She walks tall and is a wonderful organizer,” he added. He said when she introduced him to her husband, Marion Campbell, “he became a wonderful friend. And now that she’s retired and at home, I’ll pray for you,” he quipped.

Griffin Campbell thanked her husband and family for sharing her with her work. She said her husband “never complained.” She also had kind words for Sister Rita Mary and Bishop Pilla. She explained how she quit her teaching job one day and knew she couldn’t go home without a job, so she networked and landed two jobs in one day – working with in prison ministry and with the fledgling summer lunch program that became a model program in Ohio.

Sister Rita Mary described Griffin Campbell as a woman of tremendous skill. “The third floor just isn’t the same anymore. Thank you for all the years you shared with us. You helped us understand, know and embrace the African-American community.”

Martha Hamilton of the Parish Life Office presented Griffin Campbell with a handmade quilt. She said it was a tradition in the office for her to make quilts for retirees.

“Vanessa didn’t know that I had already started to make one for her when she told me she didn’t want a small one. She said she sleeps in a king-size bed and she’d like a big one for her bed,” Hamilton said, as she displayed the colorful, large quilt that took her nearly a year to finish.

The evening began with Mass before a reception and dinner. Danita Harris, news anchor for WEWS TV 5, was mistress of ceremonies. Ariane Kirkpatrick Couch was gala chair. Honorary co-chairs were Vickie Eaton Johnson of the Cleveland Clinic and Sister Rita Mary. Co-chairs were Antoinette (Toni) Smith and Rhonda Cross Mangham. Aria Johnson and Shaniene Young chaired the marketing effort with Michael Bussey in charge of finance.

Logistics were coordinated by Betty Smith and Terrence Marsh. LaQuisha Andrew and Tiana Banks were in charge of registration. Honorees were coordinated by Martin and Bianca Campbell. Dianne Phillips and Jeanette Austin handled the church décor for Mass and Carla Grant-Smith and Toni Griffin-France coordinated church ministry for the Mass. Annette Cardwell was in charge of decorations; Terrie McElroy and Danny McElroy handled entertainment; Josie Kramer and Chidubem Onuorah coordinated hospitality. Proclamations were organized by Darlene Bolden Horton and Harold Butler was the sponsorship chairperson.

Music was provided by Hubbs Groove.

Proclamations or letters were received from Bishop Nelson Perez; Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries; Father Bob; U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-11and Warrensville Heights Mayor Bradley Sellers.

The Harambee Gala coincides with the 125th anniversary of the 1893 founding of St. Agnes Parish, one of two parishes that merged to create SAOLF Parish. St. Agnes was established at East 80th Street and Euclid Avenue in Cleveland. In 1949, Our Lady of Fatima Parish was established on Lexington Avenue across from League Park, the historic baseball field. They merged in 1980. The congregation worships in a new, expanded church that was dedicated in November 2015.

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