Alston Wilkes Society luncheon honors 11, inspires with motivation from The Messengers

By Jessica Brodie

COLUMBIA—Supporters of the Alton Wilkes Society headed to Seawell’s Nov. 16 from for 61st annual meeting and awards ceremony of the ministry.

One of The United Methodist Church’s Advance Special Ministries, Alston Wilkes Society was founded in 1962 as a nonprofit organization led by a group of dedicated volunteers working under the direction of the Rev. Eli Alston Wilkes Jr., a Methodist minister who labored as a tireless and devoted worker in helping those less fortunate.

Today, the Alston Wilkes Society provides direct services in North and South Carolina to offenders, former offenders, the homeless, at-risk youth, veterans and their families, helping them get the tools they need to become productive citizens.
During the luncheon, the Alston Wilkes Society recognized top professionals from the fields of law enforcement, corrections, social services, youth services and veterans’ services with a host of service awards, plus heard an inspiring word from The Messengers, a motivational speaking group originally formed at South Carolina’s Youth Correctional Facility.

The meeting began with a welcome from Dr. Jay Dowd, AWS board chair, then a prayer from the Rev. Stephen Taylor, immediate past chair, and greetings from S. Anne Walker, AWS president and chief executive officer.

Next came the recognition of award recipients. For the criminal justice awards, Tristan M. Pierce was honored as South Carolina Department of Corrections Olin Sanders Correctional Officer of the Year.

David Thomas Caruso was honored as the Department of Juvenile Justice Hon. James W. Sparks Youth Worker of the Year.

Dejohnta R. Baxter was honored as the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services Mark Hart Probation and Parole Agent of the Year.

Michele Lambright was honored as the South Carolina Department of Social Services Case Management Professional of the Year.

Lasheika S. Vandyke was honored as the U.S. Federal Probation William C. Nau Federal Probation Officer of the Year.

Master Deputy Jacob Alan Smith was honored as the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Association Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

And Trooper Adam D. Piszczatoski was honored as the South Carolina Department of Public Safety South Carolina Law Enforcement Trooper of the Year.

For the Alston Wilkes Society awards, presented by Walker, Monica Holmes was honored as the 2023 AWS Linda J. Allen Employee of the Year.

Loretta McCree was honored as the 2023 AWS Barbara L. Rippy Part-Time Employee of the Year.

Kay Stockbridge was honored as the 2023 AWS Volunteer of the Year.

And David Coleman was honored as the 2023 AWS Parker Evatt Veterans Home Volunteer of the Year.

Next Andy Broughton, founder, and Chris Thompson brought an uplifting message about the power of trust and mentorship in someone’s life. Broughton, who retired after more than 30 years with the Department of Juvenile Justice, has long mentored young men in the program, helping them understand the power of positive choices and establishing trust. Thompson, his mentee, is today a successful businessman, and together they and other speakers with the group travel the country to share about their past mistakes and how they have been able to turn their lives around through positive friendship and strong communication.

Thompson shared how he was charged with his first crime at age 13, stealing a bicycle. At 15, he was charged with armed robbery and went to the DJJ, when he got to know Broughton and began to thrive under his mentorship.

After he left DJJ, at first he went back to the same community and same people, and started making the same poor choices, soon he began to heed the advice he’d been given.

“I love money and numbers and helping people, and instead of selling drugs, now I get to use my skills in a new way,” Thompson said.

He started a credit restoration company, and today he works hard to help people turn their lives around while imparting the same wisdom he received: Grind hard. Stick to the assignment.

“Today I teach young people you can make money in other ways—you can flip houses like I did without a real estate license, or you can buy stock instead of Jordans and Nikes.”

The event closed with resounding applause and appreciation for the message, as well as for the work AWS does. Learn more about the AWS at

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