Minister built outreach center for at-risk youth


The Rev. Harry M. Crenshaw, 77, pastor of a central Toledo church for 35 years and an ordained minister for 53, died Sunday in Flower Hospital.

Relatives declined to specify the cause of death except to say it was not associated with the Parkinson's disease and diabetes for which he had long been diagnosed. He was in rehabilitative care for recent surgery when he died.

A licensed professional counselor, Mr. Crenshaw developed programs for troubled and "at-risk" youth throughout his ministerial career, including the 1982 founding of a youth outreach center adjacent to Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church on Dorr Street.

During the 22 years between its founding and Mr. Crenshaw's April, 2004, retirement, the outreach center helped more than 2,000 troubled youths and their families to reverse the children's self-defeating attitudes and build their self-esteem. The Jerusalem Outreach Center was renamed in Mr. Crenshaw's honor in 2003.

Finding research on the subject of inner-city youth counseling to be inadequate, the pastor also wrote his own advice book, A Step-by-Step Guide for Nonprofit Organizations Working with Juveniles and At-Risk Youths and their Families, which he published.

In 1986, the pastor and his wife, Frances Crenshaw, established the Crenshaw-Brown Scholarship Fund in the memory of a daughter, Marilyn Crenshaw. The fund provided more than $15,000 to church youths to help pay for college.

"I know three things about him for sure: He loved his family, he loved his community, and he loved the Lord," said Lerline Goodman, a Jerusalem parishioner for about 15 years during the 1980s and 1990s who directed the choir and taught Sunday school.

Born in Greenville, Ala., the youngest of 18 children, Mr. Crenshaw graduated high school in his home state but then moved to Toledo following Mrs. Crenshaw, who came here to care for an aunt.

In an interview last year, Mr. Crenshaw said he knew by age 9 that he would someday be a minister, and in 1949 heard "a calling from God" that inspired him to begin training that led to his ordination in 1952. A year later, he became pastor at First Baptist Church in Rossford, and five years after that, he began a 10-year stint at First Baptist Church, Fostoria.

During that time, Mr. Crenshaw commuted on weekdays to a factory job at the Unitcast Corp. in East Toledo, where he became a foreman. Shirley Crenshaw, a daughter, said her father worked a second job outside the church for most of his life to provide for his family. He later held a community development job with the city of Toledo.

Mr. Crenshaw received a bachelor of theology degree from the International Bible Institute and Seminary, a master of arts in psychology and counseling from Ashland Theological Seminary, and a doctor of divinity from Calvary Bible College.

Survivors include his wife, Frances; sons, Harry and Marvin; daughters, Shirley Crenshaw, Vanessa Davis, and Kay Crenshaw; sisters, Mamie Crenshaw Peagler and Elder Corine Powell; three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by two daughters.

The body will be in Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church, 445 Dorr St., where visitation will begin at 4 p.m. Friday followed by services at 6 p.m. Homecoming services will begin with viewing at 10 a.m. Saturday and a funeral at 11 in Friendship Baptist Church, 5301 Nebraska Ave. The funeral is being held there because of its larger seating capacity, Miss Crenshaw said. The C. Brown Funeral Home handled arrangements.