Friends of Faith Ministry founders to be honored Sept. 30

the-arc-bannerBill and Nellie Cooper, founders of the Friends of Faith Ministry in Bartlett, will receive a community recognition award when The Arc Mid-South holds its 22nd Annual Awards and Benefit Gala on Saturday, Sept. 30.

Businessman J.W. Gibson and attorney Ruby Wharton will also will receive community recognition awards.

The event, to be held from 6-8 p.m. at The Guest House at Graceland, also will feature silent and live auctions, musical entertainment, hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. WMC-TV chief meteorologist Ron Childers will emcee. Tickets, which cost $75, are available at and by calling 901.327.2473.

“J.W. Gibson is receiving this award because of his long involvement in trying to make Memphis a better place, including for those with disabilities,” said Carlene Leaper, executive director of The Arc Mid-South. “Ruby Wharton has spent countless hours advocating for individuals with disabilities, including doing a great deal of pro bono legal work. And Bill and Nellie Cooper saw that adults with special needs needed a day center to go to for fun and fellowship. All four of them exemplify our gala theme this year, ‘Superheroes among Us.’”

The Coopers started a Sunday School class for children with special needs and a year-round sports club for such adults at Bellevue Baptist Church. Then they saw the need for a day center and founded the Friends of Faith Ministry in Bartlett in 2008. Its clients enjoy recreational activities, read Bible stories, and make such decorative items as bird houses for sale. The center’s mission is for individuals with disabilities to reach their greatest level of independence while learning social skills, a strong work ethic and how to use their talents to the utmost.

Gibson, chief executive officer of the Gibson Companies, formed the Southeast Regional Development Corporation to create opportunities through housing and economic development to promote upper mobility and self-sufficiency for residents of inner-city neighborhoods. The former Shelby County commissioner has sat on the boards of the Assisi Foundation, Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Memphis Rock N’ Soul Museum, Methodist Healthcare Foundation, LeMoyne-Owen College, Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and New Ballet Ensemble. In 2014, the Memphis Business Journal named him CEO of the Year.

Attorney Wharton is co-founder and principal of The Wharton Law Firm. She focuses her law practice in the areas of will and estates, personal injury, workers compensation, medical malpractice, employment and family law, guardianships, conservatorships, and powers of attorney. She previously served on the boards of Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Sacred Heart Southern Missions and Memphis Theological Seminary, and volunteers with the Boy Scouts of America. Currently, attorney Wharton supports many nonprofit organizations and spends a great deal of her time with the Wharton Charitable Foundation, which provides gap grants to students and educational institutions.

Founded in 1950, the Arc Mid-South is a 501© 3 nonprofit agency that provides family support and advocacy, career development and job placement services to people w/intellectual and developmental disabilities, such as autism. The agency was instrumental in starting the first special education classes in Memphis and Shelby County schools as well as group homes and the Adult Activity Center now known as Shelby Residential and Vocational Services (SRVS).