Community service has always been a defining value for Perry Bradley, supervisor of campus security for Lenoir-Rhyne and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C. since 2018 and executive director of Building Better Communities (BBC), a non-profit he founded in 2010. Bradley’s tireless work to assist and support communities across the state of South Carolina earned Bradley the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award presented at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on May 5.
Bradley taught elementary school for many years before deciding to change careers and join the staff at LR where he maintains a safe campus and takes opportunities to build community connections for students in Columbia. His instinct for service dates to his time as the community liaison for his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, at Clemson University.
“My dad always told me, ‘See a need, fill a need,’” Bradley shared. “BBC started building better communities because we found in our local communities people weren’t getting the resources they needed, and they didn’t know how to ask. We started with things like coat drives, canned food drives, fundraisers — little things to provide comfort for whatever people were going through at the time.”
BBC has expanded its efforts to encourage systemic change, including promoting a state-level hate crime bill and working to curb community violence and gun violence with several large-scale events while continuing day-to-day efforts on the ground to address needs in communities statewide. From July 21-23, the organization will host leaders from around the state to its third annual Gun Violence Prevention Summit on the Columbia campus.
Partnerships with law enforcement organizations that include the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI field office in Columbia made BBC and Bradley an ideal candidate for the award, established in 1990 to acknowledge community leaders nationwide working to expand education and prevent crime and violence. The FBI’s 56 field offices select 50 recipients each year.
During the award ceremony, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the recipients: “Like the 38,000 employees of the FBI, you don’t do what you do for fame — and certainly not for fortune. You do it out of kindness, out of compassion for others, out of a hope and a dream for safer communities....to leave your towns and cities better places than when you got there. And that’s how I’ve defined success here within our organization, too. Success to me is if everyone leaves the FBI a better place than they found it.”
Bradley thinks of the award as recognition for everyone working with BBC — including volunteers from area colleges and universities — and for the communities they serve. “It shows the work we’re doing at BBC is really making a difference. Looking at the award criteria, it’s about what we do, how we carry ourselves and what we’re accomplishing with relatively little funding. We’re all doing this from the heart.”
He also thinks of the award as a challenge to keep expanding BBC’s reach, and he hopes the wider recognition leads to more resources for the communities BBC serves.
“This award doesn’t mean we’ve made it to the top. It means we have to step up our game to the next level, work that much harder to do what people expect us to do now,” said Bradley.
Photo courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation