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Lathrop advocacy group honors leaders
Kim Lee, co-owner of TJ FIG, Inc. Support Services of Lathrop, gestures as she delivers a short speech after being presented with the recognition award by Pastor Willie Anderson who founded the African American Support Group of Lathrop & Vicinity earlier this year. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

LATHROP – Three Lathrop women in leadership positions were honored recently for their contributions to the community and for “making a difference in San Joaquin County and abroad.”

Mossdale School Principal Susan Sanders, Lathrop Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mary Kennedy-Bracken, and TJ FIG, Inc. co-owner Kim Lee received recognition awards from the non-profit African American Support Group of Lathrop & Vicinity, or AASGL. The presentation was held during the October meeting of the organization at the Dominion Print N Design in Lathrop’s Crossroads Commerce Center on South Harlan Road. Presenting the awards was the Rev. Willie Anderson, D.D., who launched the advocacy organization in March of this year.

Among the guests at the evening event were the ceremonial members of the Lathrop Youth Focus for 2010-11 – Miss Lathrop Marissa Candelaria; Miss Teen Lathrop Haley Nieves, Lathrop Ambassador John Dumaguing, Teen Lathrop Ambassador Kultar Ran, and Teen Holiday Fair Ambassador Arvin Aragon. They were accompanied by Lathrop Youth Focus coordinator Anna Candelaria.

Anderson introduced Sanders as “the youngest principal in the Manteca Unified School District” with 30 years of service in the field of education. Watching in the audience as she received her certificate of recognition and special present from the pastor and his wife, Lisa, who is the owner of the printing business, were Sanders’ husband James, and son, Bryson who is a sophomore at Sierra High School.

Anderson praised Kennedy-Bracken for being “a role model for other young women” and her commitment to the City of Lathrop.

“You have lifted Lathrop to a level of respectability,” Anderson said to Kennedy-Bracken.

The pastor described Lee was “a warm, genteel woman” and as a person who “has the softness of the heart of Coretta Scott King,” referring to the late wife of the great Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr.

“This is a woman of quality,” Anderson said of Lee.

Since its official launch in March of this year, the AASGL has held similar recognition ceremonies for outstanding African American students in the school district. At the end of the school year 2010-11, for example, the organization honored 150 African American students who were nominated by their schools for posting GPAs of 3.5 to 4.0. At another occasion, AASGL recognized the parents and teachers at Mossdale School in Lathrop.

In a flyer about the new nonprofit advocacy group for African Americans in Lathrop and vicinity, it states that the organization was organized by Anderson “and a group of concerned residents of Lathrop as a think tank and solution maker in the areas of education, economic development, job creation and health and wellness. AASGL seeks to improve the quality of life for all in the San Joaquin Valley focusing on the chronic issues that plague the African American community.”

Around the same time that Anderson launched the AASGL, he also founded Lathrop’s new church called the Image Changers Church which is holding its “opening services celebration” on Sunday, Oct. 16, at 10:30 a.m. in the atrium of Mossdale Elementary School. The campus is located on the corner of McKee and Brookhurst boulevards just a block southwest of Lathrop City Hall.

A native of Oakland, Calif., the 41-year-old Anderson attended San Jose State University where he studied Black History. He also attended Shiloh Bible College in Oakland where he majored in Theology. He finished his graduate program at the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he received his master’s degree. He received his doctorate degree in ministry from Sacramento Theological Seminary. He also attended Harvard Divinity School’s Summer Institute on Economic Development in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2004.

In the spring of last year, the pastor and his wife and their two daughters, along with several members of their church in Hayward, moved to Lathrop to establish the Image Changers Church. Currently, the church does not have its own building and will be meeting for Sunday services at Mossdale School.

For more information about Lathrop’s new church as well as its new pastor, visit