Deborah Washington: Memorial Soap Box Derby is her legacy

Published 5:03 pm Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Gladys Vaughn is known in Picayune for her big smile, big heart and service to others. She is active on local boards such as the Senior Center Board and in various civic groups in the community; traits shared with her daughter, Deborah Washington, who entered her eternal rest on February 16, 2002.

After getting her degree at Alcorn State University, Washington went to to work with Chevron Refinery of Pascagoula. She was a faithful member of Saint Paul United Methodist Church, past president of Moss Point Active Citizens, Moss Point Rotary, and Star of the Gulf Chapter #141 Order of the Eastern Star. She graduated from the Leadership Jackson County, Leadership Mississippi and served as the representative with the Mississippi Minority  Business Alliance for Chevron. Washington also owned two retail shops, both located in Moss Point.

Her mother, Vaughn said, “Even with all that she was doing, one day she was watching the Soap Box Derby televised from Akron, Ohio. She said to me, ‘Mother, we need something like this in Moss Point for the children. I am going to look into this.’”

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That is exactly what she did. Through the Moss Point Active Citizens (MPAC) organization, Washington began hosting the race in 1992.  

The race, which attracts children from the states of Miss. and La. as well as others, is open to children between the ages of 8 and 17 who build their cars from kits purchased from a designated supplier. The kits cost around $800 to $1000 by the time they are completed so it is not unusual for applicants to have sponsors.

Winners of the Moss Point divisions go on to Akron, Ohio and receive stipends and savings bonds for the efforts.

Vaughn said, “When Washington was diagnosed with cancer, Chevron employees and MPAC took on responsibilities for seeing her dream continue. We al contributed in whatever way we could and she passed knowing that her dream would live on.  The race was officially named The Deborah Washington Memorial Soap Box Derby in her honor.

The 21st Annual Deborah Washington Memorial Soap Box Derby will take place in Moss Point on May 19.  Vaughn will be there, as she always is, watching the smiles of everyone involved and remembering her daughter whose love of her community and enthusiastic pursuit of ways to enrich the life of others lives on and continues to inspire.

For more information contact Susan Stachowski – Public Relations at 228-990-7389.