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OU Changemaker: Today in Annual Fund
A mini-series by Esther Smith, Development Officer

Passionately telling the Oakwood story, this series will highlight the stories of those who run parallel to us, supporting the Oakwood Mission. 

Rosenia D. Bailey, a member of the class of 1986, has a laugh that comes easily and a heart that shines brightly. This is Rosenia’s story on why she gives.

Rosenia D. Bailey was from South Carolina at the time she attended Oakwood College. Beneath the oaks, she majored in Accounting with a minor in Computer Science. Since graduating, she says she’s lived in many places and been able to accomplish things she’s proud of, but it all began at Oakwood. When asked why she gives back, she responds that she was inspired because she feels a responsibility in returning an offering as well as being a routine ‘tither.’ Surprised by her answer, I asked her to elaborate. 

“I decided,” she continues, “to split my return. I do my tithe, and my offering goes to Oakwood.” Going further, she tells me how she’s begun to do it as a challenge. “Each year—each January, I challenge myself to increase my offering by 1% and it has definitely been a faith journey.” From her side hustles, Rosenia also makes contributions to other philanthropic efforts such as the Alzheimer’s Association and Feeding America—so in a sense, “everyone’s getting a piece of the pie.” 

Being an accountant, Rosenia tells people all the time, “God’s math is different from my math.” This being the case, giving back has been a fun challenge for her. She says she truly plays the game with the Lord, like — “Okay! Work this out! You said You’ll open up the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing that there wouldn’t be room enough to receive.” So it’s a “fun game, a spiritual game, that I play with the Lord.” Seeing her smile at the candor of her statement, I laughed too, but noted that while I understood this challenge, why Oakwood? There are many places similar to the others she gives to, from which she could’ve made her choice—so why this institution?

Rosenia thought quietly, then shared a bit of her background. “I came to Oakwood as a brand new Adventist.” She and her family had only been Adventist for about 8 months at the time. “Oakwood was good to me. I was a good student, I worked and did all the things I was supposed to do, and only got student loans when I absolutely had to.” But, she recalls times when the Financial Aid Office came through for her. Continuing to explain, she said, “It’s always been my desire to find students like me—who come from either divorced or single-parent homes, where the parent just didn’t have the money to send the student to school even though they were supportive.” While she hasn’t yet established a scholarship for such students, she maintained a determination to send her offering anyway.

Rosenia views Oakwood as “God’s institution.” Following this belief, she sincerely adds, “I don’t say that flippantly at all. I think everyone that matriculates through Oakwood, pretty much, is blessed. So, it’s His institution, my heart was led to contribute to His institution—my institution, and let everything else fall where it may.” When asked why it was important for her to be an active alum, she quickly replied, “I believe in the institution and I think it’s a very sacred place, and I love—absolutely love—that it’s a Christian HBCU.” While Rosenia has no children of her own she is sure to tell her niece and nephews about the true beauty of attending an HBCU. “It’s that you’re surrounded by your people, and you are encouraged by all these individuals who are on the same trajectory that you’re on.” 

Like many, Rosenia believes that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. She champions an understanding that it is our responsibility to stand in the gap for others as well. She doesn’t bother herself too much about what exactly to give to, avoiding getting hung up on it. Having served as a Director of Accounting and Finance for several non-profits, Rosenia is a firm believer that each institution knows where they need the money most; that’s why she gives directly to the Annual Fund. “I’ve given [the money],” she says, “you do with it what you feel is right.” 

Realizing how quickly the time had flown by, I asked my second to last question—what was it that she wanted our OU community to know about philanthropy and giving back? Rosenia seemed intrigued and answered importantly, “First, we ought to give from the heart…and just have faith.” She offered one of her own moments of difficulty as an example. This past June, she made the decision to settle in Georgia. She bought a house and afterward, reviewed her budget. Recognizing things would be tight, she contemplated not sending anything to Oakwood. But she “just couldn’t.” In that moment, she recalls how with raised hands she said out loud, “Okay, Lord. You’ve got this!” “On paper,” Rosenia admits, “I don’t bring home enough money.” But she says with a smile that was brighter than any previous, “I have not gone without eating, the Lord has still blessed me with a roof over my head.”

As a parting thought, Rosenia shares something she feels shouldn’t be left out. With a humble air of having previously been the person who hesitates before giving, she says, “Everything is a blessing and we don’t need to look at whether its small, big—whatever your definition of size is—it’s a blessing.”

So, get inspired. Make a gift. See the difference. 

Go to https://give.oakwood.edu/ or contact the Office of University Advancement at 256.726.7201.