Katherine "Miss Katie" Hopkins died six months ago, but at St. Mark's United Methodist Church the spirit of Miss Katie was surely felt Dec. 1 at the first annual Katie Hopkins Scholarship Fund Concert and Toy Drive.

With the opening procession of the choir, it was clear that this going to be something special.


Miss Katie, who died last June at the age of 104, was the pianist and organist at St. Mark's for 46 years. She would have been extremely proud — if Miss Katie was capable of pride — of an event to benefit a scholarship fund created in her honor.

The event was organized with the help of St. Mark's Young Adult Ministry. The idea for a scholarship fund benefit came from Jackie Jones, the church's director of Christian Education and Childrens Church; and Tanya Johnson of the Young Adult Ministry, who was planning a Toys for Tots drive. Also on board was Regi McClurkin, a praise and worship leader at St. Mark's UMC in Hanover and a professional musician who has performed around the world and for world leaders like Nelson Mandela and the Queen of England.

As happens whenever St. Mark's needs a choir for an event outside of its regularly scheduled services, the Whomsoeverwill (pickup) Choir was assembled using St. Mark's own singers as well as available choir members from other area churches.

From the opening processional hymn to the finale of Christmas songs, the music produced by that choir was soul-stirring, crowd-swaying, hand-clapping, foot-tapping good. For those couple of hours the walls of that little church resounded with music beautiful in its simplicity: a wonderful blend of gorgeous voices with the spare accompaniment of keyboard (McClurkin) and drums (Trevon Stafford). Senior choir members Evelyn Pumphrey and Mildred Awkward each took inspired solos.

The Young Adult Ministry's Tiara Matthews was the mistress of ceremonies and

introduced Jones, who explained that the scholarship at Bowie State was established before Miss Katie died. All of their efforts, she explained, are driven by a philosophy demonstrated by the example of Miss Katie's life and expressed in the title of one of her favorite hymns, "May The Work That I've Done Speak For Me."

Choir member Dellisa Talley took the microphone to share some good news appropriate for a scholarship event: Just that morning, she had received her master's degree in adult education from Strayer University. She then invited her daughter, Chauntrice Smith; her father, Leo Smith Sr.; and her stepmother, Hattie Smith, to join her in a rousing rendition of "I Got My Ticket."

Talley lives in Glen Burnie, but grew up in Laurel's historic Grove neighborhood where its cornerstone, St. Mark's, was the church of her grandmother, Thelma Powell. She still attends her grandfather's church, Mount Zion United Methodist, in Laurel's Bacontown neighborhood.

Tahira Love Brooks, a spoken-word artist, then provided an exciting change of pacewith a striking spoken-word piece, "Before I Arose," which was inspired by a Swedish proverb about loving someone when they are most unlovable. Then, after instructing the audience how to help with the chorus, she lit up the crowd with a powerful song about prayer, titled "Fire."

McClurkin reminded everyone how Miss Katie, who played for the church for so many years, "never asked for a dime." He said he felt he was "standing on the shoulders of Miss Katie" and the other church elders who have gone before, and he exhorted the young people present to "get to know these seniors." He urged everyone to remember the history of St. Mark's and appreciate the intimacy of their small church.

St. Mark's pastor, the Rev. Robbie Morganfield, said the collection for the scholarship fund netted $830, which will be added to the $2,000 fund. In addition, 78 toys were collected for the Toys for Tots campaign by Marine Lance Cpls. Jared Goldberg and Paul Slaver, from Bravo Company, on Fort Meade.

It was fitting that this event was held during this holiday time of giving because Miss Katie's long lifetime legacy of selfless giving to her church and her community was really a gift to all of us. And with this annual benefit in her name we can continue to share that gift and hold up her wonderful example for generations to follow.

To donate to the Katie Hopkins Scholarship Fund, contact Jackie Jones at 301-526-9435 or jackie1character@aol.com.