The Grand Island Chamber of Commerce will honor Dr. Kevin Backus, pastor of Bible Presbyterian Church, and Grand Island High School music teacher Martin Allen at the annual Citizen of the Year Awards Ceremony on Thursday, April 25.
Backus will receive a Citizen of the Year award for Ministry, while Allen will receive Educator of the Year.
The Citizen of the Year Awards Ceremony will be held at the Holiday Inn Grand Island, with Luke Moretti of WIVB Channel 4 serving as the master of ceremonies. The awards honor those who have made Grand Island a better place to live, work and play.
Dr. Kevin M. Backus
Early life was rather nomadic for Kevin Backus.
He and his wife Sharon have, however, called the Island home for nearly half a century. It was studying the scripture in a high school humanities class, and the witness of classmates from Bible Presbyterian Church, that led Backus to know Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. It was the care and influence of people at Bible Presbyterian Church that helped Backus grow in his faith and understand God's call to the ministry. It has been the partnership and support of his wife Sharon that's made his ministry possible.
Backus left high school for college, where he majored in Biblical literature with a minor in education.
Graduate school brought Backus to Faith Theological Seminary, near Philadelphia. While completing a Masters of Divinity, he pastored a church in Trenton, N.J., and served as an assistant to Dr. Carl McIntire. His work, with McIntire, involved ministry at the local church and radio and television ministries.
After graduation, Backus was set to continue graduate studies in counseling as well as serving as director of the denomination's foreign missions board when Grand Island Bible Presbyterian Church asked him to come home to join the pastoral staff.
"There was no place I'd rather serve" Backus said. "It was and still is a deep desire of my life to serve the Lord among the people who have invested so much in me. It's one of the greatest privileges of my life to serve the Grand Island congregation as a pastor for over 30 years."
According to Backus, "Any award for ministry is really as much for the people of the church as for its pastor. People keep telling me, 'Your church is unique on the Island.' The Bible Presbyterian Church is a church that is grounded, active and consistently reaching out to minister beyond her walls. 'VBS at Bible Pres.' is a childhood memory for thousands. AWANA follows in that same pattern. Ministry to young people and their families characterizes our congregation."
Backus continues, "The pressures on families today are enormous. Care for people means caring for their problems. The ministry at Bible Pres. is committed to applying the word of God to people's lives." While at the church, Backus returned to Whitefield Theological Seminary to complete a Masters in Sacred Theology and Doctor of Philosophy, both in Biblical counseling. Backus teaches those courses now in seminary and offers them as an extension campus at the church's Family Life Center. Free counseling is provided to the community through the Biblical Counseling Center of Grand Island, and counselors are continually being trained to serve across Western New York and Southern Ontario. Backus continues to lecture internationally and serves on the national certifying board for biblical counselors.
Serving others doesn't stop at the bridges. Grand Island is a strategic congregation for the Bible Presbyterian denomination. International relationships and foreign missions for the denomination are overseen, in part, by officers of the Island church. Backus serves as the chairman of the Inter-Church Relations Committee and is the international field director for the Presbyterian Missionary Union. As moderator and host pastor for the Synod, this summer, Backus says, "We should see people from around the world coming to Grand Island to celebrate the denomination's 75th anniversary."
"This is the Lord's work and we are deeply grateful to him for allowing us to serve in it."
Martin T. Allen
Martin Allen has taught instrumental music in the Grand Island schools for 25 years. After four years at the elementary level, Allen is in his 21st year at Grand Island High School. Under his baton, GIHS ensembles have been recognized for their excellence at state and national music festivals, including performances at New York State Band Directors Association, New York State School Music Association, and Music Educators National Conference All Eastern Conventions. They have received level five and six gold medals ratings at the NYSSMA Major Organization festivals from 1994-1998 and level five and six gold with distinction ratings from 1998 to the present. They have also performed at Dixie Classic National Music Festivals since 1994, where they have been awarded superior ratings as well as festival honors at the Classic Festivals and The National Adjudicator's Invitational Festivals. The group also performed at the Grand National Adjudicator's Invitational in 2000 and 2004 and 2008, where they received superior ratings and awards for the Outstanding Percussion Sections. Additional honors awarded at these festivals have been Outstanding Brass, Outstanding Woodwind, and five Outstanding Solo Awards.
A graduate of SUNY at Buffalo, Allen has his Master of Music in Education from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago with additional graduate work at SUNY Buffalo and SUNY Fredonia. He has guest conducted at various levels in Erie, Monroe, Niagara, Wayne, Genesee Wyoming, Genessee Valley, Malone and Saratoga counties and has been a guest clinician with several area school districts. An accomplished pianist, Allen has served as organist and choir director at area churches and as a trombonist and baritone with the Buffalo Silver Band. He has served on the executive board of the Erie County Music Educators Association, where he has chaired the Instrumental Committee and served as vice president. He has also served on the executive board of the New York State Band Directors Association.
Allen was honored with the American School Band Directors Association Regional and National Directors award for Outstanding Service to the American Band Movement in 1998 as well as the Erie County Council of Music Coordinators/Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Award for excellence in music education in 2004.
Citizens of the Year