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Berea students bring hope through music to Appalachian communities

On March 26, 2010, Berea College’s very own songwriter, music entertainer and urban missionary, Breon Thomas launched a special community-driven project entitled “The Home Run Tour.”

The Home Run Tour

The tour, which ended on April 5, aimed to assist and encourage communities through turbulent times, to motivate persons from all walks of life to keep faith in God, and to convey the love of Jesus “for all humanity.”

The project derived from a vision that Thomas had to deliver personal testaments and express the love of Christ through music, dance, and service.

Alongside Thomas were his colleagues and Berea students Antonio Bill, Wayne Cox, Terrell Horton, Markesha Dunham, Megan Norris, Chivonne Smith, Chiyayim Burney, and Willkenia Napolean.

Thomas will be one to admit that he is no stranger to adversity and destitution. He openly confesses that growing up for him wasn’t the easiest as he struggled during much of his adolescent years in Atlanta, Ga.

“I would go to catch the train to go to school and not be able to pay the fair to get into the train station,” Thomas recalls.

Situations like these could have left Thomas depressed and emotionally drained; instead, they served as a source of motivation for him. One day, while residing in a shelter in downtown Atlanta, Thomas learned the gospel song “Joy,” which he says further fueled his drive to rise above victimization and become a better person than what his rough childhood had initially seemed to offer.

With those factors serving as two of his inspirational forces, he developed the idea that it is important to give back and support the community he comes from.

Reflecting on his childhood, Thomas thought of incorporating civic engagement and the art of music into one ongoing event. Modeling after American alternative rock band Switchfoot’s “Habitat for Humanity” campaign, Thomas decided to organize an event that would provide community service in the morning and a musical performance in the evening.

One of the tour’s main focal points was to especially cater to homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters and schools within communities of the Appalachian states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia.

Thomas asserted that traveling throughout the different cities within the states was an eye opener. On the tour he understood better as to why a lot of people are actually homeless. Thomas would agree that viewing such misfortunes on the surface is different from understanding the underlying cause.

“It can result from sudden lack of a job when you were already struggling to maintain, mental issues and drug addictions,” Thomas explains.

According to Thomas, the tour was a “successful and life-changing experience for everyone.” In commenting on the perks and most memorable moments of the tour, Thomas excitedly expresses: “Everyone worked well together; they were flexible, dedicated and, most importantly, they encouraged me.”

Inspirationally and reverently, Breon Thomas carries out Berea’s historic mission, serving and inspiring low-income people in Appalachia. Thomas is indeed keeping the Berea's vision alive through his service to the needy.

Although the tour has come to an end, anticipate Thomas’ forthcoming projects, one of which includes his upcoming album entitled “Breakin’ Loose,” expected to release in the near future.

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