It’s been 16 months, but the memories are still fresh for Roderick Cunningham and his brothers Quincy and Demetrius.
He and Demetrius were in their Decatur home on Oct. 27, 2009, when their mother, Beverly Cunningham Brown, was shot in the head while lying in bed.
Her husband of more than 10 years, Leroy Walker Brown, has been sentenced to life in prison in the slaying. Her son said she endured years of mental and verbal abuse before dying at the hands of her husband.
Beverly Cunningham Brown was the longtime owner and operator of Beverly’s Home Childcare and an evangelist with the Church of God in Christ.
She often provided free child care when parents lost their jobs.
The day care remains closed because it was family-based and the license was nontransferable. Cunningham says the family plans to reopen the center.
In July 2010, Cunningham founded Beverly Cunningham Outreach to honor his mother’s memory and celebrate her generous spirit.
The group’s mission is to provide individual and group counseling and advocacy services to survivors of domestic violence and to offer an outlet for community youth who are at risk of becoming victims of violence, substance abuse or who are impacted by health issues.
“My mother’s greatest legacy to me was her dedication to service,” he said. “For 55 years she strived to help and nurture others. When I am able to follow her legacy I feel like she is still here with me.”
In its first year, the nonprofit held several outings, including trips to NBA and NHL games, and the “Silent No More” inaugural fund-raising dinner featuring the award-winning author L.Y. Marlow in October for victims and families of domestic violence. Cunningham said the group partnered with local businesses and Decatur city officials to provide fun and entertainment.
Supporters include the DeKalb-Childcare Association of Professional Providers and Family Childcare in Georgia, Hi-Tek POS, Zoom Express Car Wash, Publix, Wal-Mart, and Pentecostal Temple.
Cunningham says the goal is to provide a facility that will allow the program to counsel, mentor and protect victims of domestic violence. “Through the donations of our community, we will continue to strive to increase awareness and teach young people how to have healthy relationships.”
Since losing their mother, Cunningham says he and brothers Quincy and Demetrius Turner have been taking each day at a time. They were 35, 29, and 28, respectively, when their mother was killed. They have received encouragement from COGIC ministers and Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake.
“Their prayer and support during such a traumatic time in our lives was invaluable.”
Cunningham said they also are coping by holding awareness seminars featuring Marlow, who wrote “Color Me Butterfly,” a novel inspired by a true story of domestic abuse. It follows four generations of mothers and daughters as they discover the strength, hope and courage to survive. Cunningham said social outings let families know there is someone who cares.
The tragedy has strengthened his family. “I am blessed to have a beautiful wife and daughter [who hold] me up through prayer, and everyone that my mother’s life has touched surrounded me and my brothers with love. We have bonded together to see that my mother’s death not be in vain. ”He wants victims and families to end the silence and stop the vicious cycle.
“Don’t be afraid to seek out help. Don’t look at the behavior of others that is negative to be an example in your life.”
The Beverly Cunningham Outreach Program is at 5353 Fairington Road. For more information, visit www.beverlycunning
hamoutreach.com or call 770-864-1664.