In the Park: Reverend Mozel Sanders Park

Written by on April 4, 2015 in In the Park - No comments
0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 0 LinkedIn 0 Email -- 0 Flares ×
Welcome to Reverend Mozel Sanders Park!

Welcome to Reverend Mozel Sanders Park!

From Colonel Eli Lily to Mayor Thomas Taggart to basketball great Oscar Robertson, there is a lengthy list of people who have helped shape our city’s history.  Reverend Mozel Sanders left a particularly influential legacy of philanthropy and social justice.  Perhaps that’s why Indy Parks honored him by naming the twenty-five acre park at 1300 North Belmont Avenue for him.

It's a beautiful day in the Near Eastside!

It’s a beautiful day in the Near Westside!

Mozel Sanders was born in East St. Louis, Illinois in 1924.  He grew up in Canton, Mississippi, during some of the most difficult years of the Jim Crow South era.  After completing school, Sanders enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps.  In 1943 he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and became a minister.  He went on to wear many hats in his career, from recording artist to revival preacher to gospel radio show host.  As he traveled the country, performing and ministering, he joined Dr. Martin Luther King and thousands of other activists during four of King’s marches for civil rights.

Reverend Mozel Sanders 1924-1988

Reverend Mozel Sanders 1924-1988

Sanders moved to Indianapolis in 1945, where he began working in a foundry by day and preaching at local churches at night.  In 1959, he became the pastor of Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church, located just a few blocks from the park that would one day bear his name.  He took his spirit for philanthropy out of his church and into the city, heading the Indianapolis Opportunities Industrialization Center, a national job-training program.  He formed the Fair Share Organization in the 1960s that led nonviolent protests and boycotts against businesses with discriminatory hiring practices against people of color.

Perhaps Mozel Sanders is best known for founding an annual citywide Thanksgiving meal for the underprivileged and shut-in.  What started as a few people being served a traditional turkey dinner in the basement of the Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church in 1974 to 200 volunteers, feeding over 16,000 hungry people in 1987, the year of Sanders’ death.  He was well known for saying “If each one would feed one, everyone would be fed.”

Volunteers prepare plates for guests of the Mozel Sanders Thanksgiving Day Dinner in 1983.

Volunteers prepare plates for guests of the Mozel Sanders Thanksgiving Day Dinner in 1983.

Mozel Sanders’ legacy of generosity lives on today.  In 1996, the Mozel Sanders Foundation revived the Thanksgiving Day Dinner tradition.  The Foundation estimates that it served meals to over 35,000 persons in need in 2014.

The playground at Reverend Mozel Sanders Park is popular among its younger neighbors.

The playground at Reverend Mozel Sanders Park is popular among its younger neighbors.

Reverend Mozel Sanders Park features playgrounds, athletic fields, and basketball courts.   But more than a place for recreation, the park serves as a memorial to a man who helped shape the City of Indianapolis.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 0 LinkedIn 0 Email -- 0 Flares ×

Valuing = Supporting

Publishing HI every day is more than just a ’labor of love‘ (though we do love it), but takes hundreds of hours each month to create. If you are entertained, inspired, better informed, feel more connected with Indy or just value what you discover here, please consider becoming a supporting member with a recurring monthly donation.

Or, become a one-time supporter with a single donation in any amount you choose.

More old-fashioned? Checks or money orders may be sent to:
Historicindianapolis.com at P.O. Box 2999, Indianapolis, IN 46206

Thank you and HI-5! Love, The HI Team

About the Author

Gwen Sunkel is a connoisseur of bad first dates and a collector of ticket stubs. When she's not catering to the every whim of her dog and two cats, she enjoys reading, yoga, building communities, dismantling the patriarchy, and falling in love with Indianapolis.

Leave a Comment