In a momentous event that united hearts and hands for a common cause, The Lazarus Project marked its expanded services with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on December 11, 2024, in partnership with Emanuel County Family Connections/Emanuel County Community Health Council and Golden Harvest Food Bank. The joyous occasion, attended by approximately 125 individuals, was a celebration of community collaboration and a step forward in addressing the needs of those facing crises in Emanuel County.
The ceremony opened with a heartfelt prayer by Pastor John Hancock from Beacon of Hope Church of God, setting a reflective and inspiring tone for the celebration. The spirit of generosity shone brightly at the ceremony, with Aetna Better Health leading the way by presenting a substantial $50,000 grant. This pivotal contribution, along with a $500 donation from the Methodist Women of First Methodist Church of Swainsboro, a $950 contribution from the First Methodist Church of Swainsboro, and a previous donation of $800 from Emanuel County Family Connection demonstrates the collective commitment to supporting The Lazarus Project’s mission.
Key figures gracing the event included Georgia House Representative Butch Parrish, President and CEO of Golden Harvest Food Bank Amy Breitmann, Emanuel County Family Connection Coordinator Tammy Allen, and Swainsboro Mayor Greg Bennett. Also present from Aetna Better Health were Andre Greenwood, Market Lead, and Georgia Interim CEO; Veatrice Futch, Director of SDoH (Social Determinants of Health) Operations and Innovation; Earlie Rockette, Georgia Health Services Officer; Shakela Williams, Lead SDoH Community Strategist for Georgia; Michelle Walls, Georgia Child Welfare Director; Elizabeth Starr, Executive Director of Social Impact; and Anthony Fulton, Medicare Broker Manager of the Augusta and Savannah Market. Their collective presence underscored the significance of community partnerships in addressing critical issues such as food insecurity.
Among the attendees were donors, volunteers, and community leaders, each playing a crucial role in making The Lazarus Project’s expanded services a reality. The ceremony was not just a testament to financial contributions but also a celebration of the dedication and passion exhibited by those who give their time, talent and effort to make a difference.
Bobby Reeves, in a heartfelt speech, gave a historical account of The Lazarus Project, detailing the joint venture between Beacon of Hope Church of God and First Methodist Men. He traced its roots from its humble beginnings in a small location with a mission to provide gently used furniture and appliances to those in need. Reeves highlighted how God’s providence led to the acquisition of the current facility, a building that not only provides ample room for the storage of the furniture but also provides plenty of space for the new food pantry. As the audience reflected on the incredible journey, they could feel a spirit of community and gratitude for the many blessings of God.
Light refreshments, generously provided by the Kiwanis Club of Swainsboro and Family Connection, added a delightful touch to the celebration, creating an atmosphere of warmth and camaraderie.
A farmers market sponsored by Family Connection provided free fresh produce to families in need. Farmer Pete Jackson, embodying the spirit of community support, supplied the fresh produce for the market, funded by Aetna, further emphasizing the interconnectedness of local businesses, agriculture, and community welfare.
Representatives from Emanuel Medical Center, East Georgia Healthcare Center, Community Action for Youth, the Veterans Club, Emanuel County Board of Education, Emanuel County Chamber of Commerce, Summertown Food Pantry, and numerous other local groups were present, reflecting the diversity and depth of community involvement in The Lazarus Project.
As attendees toured the newly established food pantry, the Bible verses Matthew 25:35 and Proverbs 11:25 resonated with the community spirit that permeated the event. “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me in,” and “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” served as poignant reminders of the shared commitment to compassion, hospitality, and refreshing the lives of those in need.
“The opening of the Lazarus Project Food Pantry is a testament to the power of collaboration and the spirit of our community,” said John Hancock, Pastor at Beacon of Hope Church of God. “As we look towards the future, we remain dedicated to fostering a resilient, healthy community where no one goes hungry. We invite all community members to join us in this mission and make the Lazarus Project Food Pantry a cornerstone of support for those that need it most.”
In the spirit of giving, The Lazarus Project Food Pantry announced that it will be distributing food right before Christmas, on Friday, December 22, from 12 pm to 2 pm to the first 500 people. This special event aims to provide support to families during the holiday season, ensuring that no one in the community goes without during this festive time.
For those interested in contributing to this noble cause, whether through volunteering or donations, please reach out to Pastor John Hancock at (478) 237-8509. Your support will play a vital role in sustaining The Lazarus Project’s mission and making a positive impact on the lives of those in need within Emanuel County.
The Lazarus Project’s Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was not just an event; it was a celebration of community, unity, and the power of collective action to bring hope and sustenance to those who need it most. As this beacon of hope steps into a new chapter, the echoes of community support will undoubtedly reverberate, offering a promise of brighter days ahead for Emanuel County.