Cooley's Sixty Plus Outreach Project receives new name

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

Thomas M. Cooley Law School's Sixty Plus Elderlaw Clinic has renamed its outreach effort, "The Stone Community Outreach Project" in honor of the late Pastor Lester D. Stone.

A large crowd came together on March 25 to witness the dedication of the stone representing the new naming of the former Sixty Plus Outreach Project. Pastor Lester Stone worked tirelessly with the project and demonstrated unwavering commitment to freedom and justice.

The ceremony included reflections on Pastor Stone's contributions to the community by members of the Elderlaw Clinic, Sixty Plus Outreach staff, and the Sixty Plus interns.

"The Mission of the Sixty Plus Elderlaw Clinic is to provide legal services to people in the Lansing area that are 60 years or older," said Sheri Sainz, representing the Cooley interns. "I believe such initiatives as the Pastor Stone Community Outreach Project better helps the local community to be informed about their rights. I believe the spirit of Pastor Stone continues to flourish today."

Rita J. Bunton, Lansing Community College and Retired Lansing Police Chief Mark Alley also spoke of Pastor Stone's contributions. A'Lynne Robinson, Chairperson, Lansing City Council, read the resolution adopted by the city.

Reverend Robert E. Nicholson and the Sixty Plus Inc. Elderlaw Community Outreach Steering Committee dedicated the stones to Dr. Carolyn Stone, his wife of 39 years, and Lester Stone II, son. "Pastor Stone," said Reverend Nicholson "was aware that a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

"Dr. Carolyn Stone," he said, "on behalf of the Sixty Plus Elder Law Clinic and Cooley Law School, it gives us great pleasure to dedicate this stone (as representative of the) sturdy, sound, never-wavering personality of Pastor Stone. This stone stands between us, Cooley Law and you that we will commit ourselves to serve the seniors in Sixty Plus Elderlaw Clinic."

Pastor Lester D. Stone spent his entire life pursing truth and justice with unapologetic passion. A native of Nashville, TN, Pastor Stone moved to Lansing in June 1982 to lead Friendship Baptist Church.

Pastor Stone sat on numerous boards and spoke to issues facing the community that had become his home. Lansing's City Council invited him to serve as guest speaker for its Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday program two years in a row. Pastor Stone recited the slain civil rights leader's I Have a Dream speech to packed chambers both times.

When two African American males died at the hands of law enforcement in Feb. 1996, Pastor Stone helped calm an outraged community and organized a group that was eventually called The March for Justice. Pastor Stone and the March for Justice spent the next ten years raising awareness of police brutality, and excessive and deadly force by the Lansing Police Dept. The group pushed for changes in police policies and procedures, including strengthening the citizens' complaint system. The city hired a special investigator to oversee the complaint process. Minority hiring of police officers increased and the incidence of violent crime dropped.

In Nov. 1999, an initiative calling for a citizens' review board failed at the polls but received more than 7,000 votes cast. The March for Justice also was credited with helping elect its first African American county prosecutor. Amid strong opposition, he played a major role in pushing to rename Logan Street, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Pastor Stone earned his Bachelors' of Arts Degree from Belmont College in 1973. Vanderbilt University awarded him a Masters of Divinity Degree in 1976 and a Master of Arts Degree in 1977.

The Stone will be housed at the Sixty Plus Clinic to bear witness to the work on behalf of senior citizens on behalf of justice and service. A smaller stone was presented to the family.

For more information, contact the Sixty Plus, Inc. Elderlaw Clinic at Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Published: Fri, Apr 8, 2011