By LYDIA BERGLAR
A Hand Up Ministry is hosting “Celebration of Hope” on April 22 at Dade County High School. This gala will raise funds to support the ministry while also increasing awareness about A Hand Up. While the entire gala is shaping up to be a success, one highlight in particular is special guest Mark Richt, former head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs and Miami Hurricanes.
A Friday evening time with Richt is also being held on April 21, as well as a pre-event meet-and-greet before the main event. Both of these require separate tickets, exclusively available through sponsorship packages.
Beginning at 5 p.m. (with doors opening at 4 p.m.), Celebration of Hope will feature live music, live and silent auctions, stories from graduates of the ministry, and a time to hear from Richt.
According to Rex Mayo, A Hand Up’s founder, the silent auction will be in the commons outside of the high school’s gymnasium, and the live auction will be after the main event for anyone who wishes to stay. Some exciting items include Braves tickets, weekend getaways, and a four-person dove hunting trip to Argentina.
Regarding the dinner, Mayo reports, “We’re going to train an army of volunteers to serve the tables.” Attire is semi-formal, and Mayo quipped, “That means I can wear my blue jeans with my sport coat.”
Many in the community are thrilled to have Richt as a special guest. In Mayo’s words, “Coach Richt is an absolutely incredible man. We’re a faith-based program, and Mark’s been very vocal about his faith. He’s a great dad, husband, mentor. Even people who didn’t like him as a coach say they would love for their kids to learn from him. He’s a man of character, and we don’t have a lot of those in our day and time.”
Mayo attributes the opportunity to have Coach Richt come to the Lord. Mayo prayed about the need for a speaker who would fit well with the ministry and who people would want to hear. “Many speakers cost anywhere from $30,000 to $70,000, and the only way to contact many of them is through Twitter,” he said.
Mayo logged into his unused Twitter account for almost the first time. “I opened my account and the first thing that came up was Mark Richt saying that he was putting together his 2023 speaking schedule.”
Mayo messaged Richt’s team, and very quickly, Richt agreed to the event and expressed support of A Hand Up, charging much less than the average speaker. Mayo noted that the entire exchange was evidence of Richt’s character and integrity.
At the gala, Richt will share his story of coming to faith in Jesus, his sports background, what he is up to these days, and why he supports ministries such as A Hand Up.
For those unfamiliar with A Hand Up Ministry, the mission of the licensed 501(c)(3) is to “provide safe and structured housing for men and women struggling from drug and alcohol abuse. Our staff is committed to providing education and life skills that will help a person heal from past Hurts, Habits, and Hang-Ups by providing person-centered treatment.”
Mayo explained, “In the very beginning, we started by connecting with people coming out of jail. We’re heavily involved with Celebrate Recovery. Now, we’re working with kids who get into drug and alcohol problems. We’re moving to more education, prevention, anger management, and parenting training. We don’t necessarily do it all, but we connect people with groups that do those things.”
Since its start in 2016, A Hand Up has seen the local community come together to move the ministry forward. Mayo noted support from the Dade County Sheriff’s Office, the Dade County Commission, and support from Dade County High School.
He recalled, “When we started the Hope House, we had no money, but we had people believe in us enough that they made it all happen. Over 12 churches and community groups came in and renovated these rooms. Some bought the furniture, some brought flooring, some did cabinet work. Some were Catholic, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist…this is truly multi-denominational.”
Mayo said that it’s not unusual for women to enter the Hope House for the first time and start crying because of the care and comfort they find there. Without the local community, the Hope House and the ministry as a whole would not exist.
The ministry’s funding comes from several sources, and Mayo explained that they are able to expand their work as funds come in. In addition to the gala, revenue from Hope House Cafe, monthly supporters, and occasional grants add to the budget.
The gala is also intended to raise awareness about A Hand Up. Mayo said, “There are people who have stories who can connect with others and encourage them.”
Tearing up, Mayo said, “Jesus is where people can find true healing. There is hope in Jesus Christ, and we will unashamedly tell that to the world without beating them over the head with it. We’re going to uplift Jesus with stories of hope at the gala.”
Tickets to the gala can be purchased online for $75 a piece, while a full table (eight tickets) can also be purchased online for $600. Visit www.ahandupministries.org/gala-2023 to purchase tickets or call the Hope Line (leaving a message if no one picks up) at 888-912-6487.
The main event currently has seating for 400 attendees. Mayo says, “If that sells out, we could add a few. We’ve sold nearly 100 tickets so far. Businesses and individuals have purchased sponsorship packages.”
The pre-event on Saturday is a quick time to meet Richt, take photos with him, and ask for his signature, while the Friday evening event is a longer, laid-back time with Richt and heavy hors d’oeuvres. Both of these will be small groups of 30 to 40 people, and tickets are exclusively available through sponsorship packages.
If interested in the sponsorship opportunities, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The sponsorship levels are bronze, silver, gold, and platinum with different perks at each level. A bronze sponsorship is $1,000 and a platinum sponsorship is $10,000.