JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — For just over 30 years, Ms. Carol ‘Cookie’ Marks has mentored and guided youth in Jackson and its surrounding counties.
Marks used the ‘Boys to Men’ Choir to give young men in the area a place to go for after school programs, safety and growth; helping the youth stay out of bad situations.
On Sunday, the organization held its final program as Marks is set to retire from her work.
“I need to retire because there are different generations of youth and I need someone younger who knows about technology and the things that they deal with to be apart of the program,” Marks said.
The service was held inside the Pope Chapel AME Church, as young ones currently in the program, as well as older men who are former members, joined together.
News 13 spoke to many of those men who talked about the impact the choir made on their lives.
“When you’re a child you don’t realize what’s going on but when you’re grown and have your own children and then you realize the adults sacrifice just to help you. you’ll see that a lot of guys that were in this program that they’re helping in their communities, whether it be Georgia, California, Illinois, Alabama, Florida,” said original choir member Philip Sylvester.
Marianna Mayor Rico Williams says both of his sons were part of the organization but says Marks’ work also influenced him.
“When you see her passion and her love for the kids and how she invests a lot of time in them, it makes you gravitate to make you want to help any way you can,” Williams said.
As Marks steps down, others in the community are looking to step up and fill that need. One of those men is Sunrise Worship Center’s Youth Pastor Walter Caldwell, Jr.
“As for me as a youth pastor, being at a young age, it’s important for me to carry on the message of our importance in history. Really carrying on the message that we can be a vital part of society and we can be successful,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell says he’s already started talking with other local pastors to get something going in the near future.
“We’re going to have a lot of things coming out pretty soon. A lot of flyers, a lot of different workshops. I want to have a professional workshop for us in the community to get back to being leaders.”