By Jeff Holt
Published May 5, 2022 in The Burg
Have you ever been somewhere and you were a bit out of your element? But yet, it turned out to be a great time.
That was me a couple weeks ago - right after attending the book signing for Barry Swanson in Knoxville at the Hidden Hills Winery. There were several familiar faces with former GHS teachers in attendance and Knox College professors at the book signing.
On this particular Saturday, Rev. Donaldson invited me to also attend a big event at his church (Allen Chapel AME Church). I didn't really feel like going to be honest. The die-hard golfers were out trying to hit a few and that idea didn't sound too bad.
But Rev. Donaldson had asked me to go to this big event at his church ... where several inmates that he had preached to (at Hill Correctional Center) were part of a Gospel Band now and they wanted to play one more time at his church. Plus, they were now success stories in the civilian world and they wanted to say an extra "thanks" to Rev. Donaldson.
About 15 minutes into it, as I'm in the back row of the church, I found myself standing up and clapping to the soulful gospel music.
It was great!
They took a break every so often in-between songs and they thanked Rev. Donaldson for everything that he did for them.
At the end of the jam session, they wanted Rev. Donaldson to say some final words to everyone. He said a few words to the loyal parishioners in the pews and then broke out in a famous song - "This Little Light of Mine" (one of my favorites).
If that wasn't enough, they invited me and my photographer (Rick Cross) for tacos and a big meal.
I'd like to end this column with a few words from a Chicago native who drove to Galesburg to be in that Gospel Band and play at Allen Chapel.
He said: "I was sentenced to 45 years in prison, which means I had to do 22 years and six months. I think I met Rev. Donaldson in year 10 and he helped me. It wasn't just him coming out to the prison and preaching. We were all in ministry. I'm absolutely crazy about him. Had it not been for him I don't know where my life would be. I'm humbled. I'm grateful and I owe him. He literally changed the trajectory of my life.
"For people who don't know him, come to find out who he is. He's got a pure heart. He loves people and goes above and beyond."
Other notes: Some of you might remember Rev. Donaldson as the 1973 graduate of Galesburg High School. He still credits some of his coaches and teachers of when he grew up in Galesburg like the Morgan brothers (Bob and Bill) and R.E. Wallace.
"They didn't see color," said Donaldson. "They saw young men who wanted to compete and do well in the classrooms as well as in competition."
Personally, I know Rev. Donaldson from the Knox County YMCA as a 68-year-old who gets after it with his early-morning workouts.
He's a good person, too.