By Johnny Jackson
In the coming weeks, children at Avalon Church in McDonough will help fill more than 500 book bags for other area children who will need them next school year.
The children will be participating in a charity event known as the Kids Blitz Project, which is organized by the church's nonprofit organization, Avalon HOPE, Inc.
HOPE is an acronym which stands for, "Helping the poor, Outreach to the community, Planting churches, and Evangelism around the world," said Ritchie Miller, the church's senior pastor.
Since its beginning two years ago, Avalon HOPE has sponsored three annual charities at the church, including a free meal event at Easter and a gift program at Christmas.
Beginning July 18, Avalon HOPE will donate school supplies to about 500 pre-registered children to use when area schools open for the new school year in August.
Miller said the Kids Blitz event will serve children, up to age 16, from Henry and Clayton counties, as well as some surrounding areas.
Many in the church's active membership of 4,000 contribute to Avalon HOPE by volunteering. Most at the church contribute financially, according to Miller.
According to the pastor, 10 percent of the church's weekly offerings goes to Avalon HOPE which, in turn, converts the financing into community charity projects.
"One of our goals is to transform the community," Miller said. "Our philosophy is that we do want to invest in the community. Our belief is that the gospel is not only in word, but in deed. We want to not only talk about good things, we want to do good things."
Rachel McDaniel, executive director of Avalon HOPE, said she believes getting involved with educational initiatives is one of the simpler ways to involve a church in the community.
"I think education is very important," she said. "I think a church providing educational supplies shows the community that God is alive and living through us."
As a nonprofit, Avalon HOPE is also able to go out into the community to raise funds and bring awareness to its various projects, Miller said.
Avalon HOPE has worked with various local businesses in the past two years, he said, including Wal-Mart, Chick-fil-A, Publix, FuddRuckers, Bennet International Trucking, and most recently, Allstate Insurance.
"We continue to collect all year long, and we give away whatever we raise," Miller said. "We don't want to just give things to people. We also want to be a resource for education."
Miller said Avalon HOPE is planning to host its annual Christmas event Dec. 19, and give away dozens of Nike tennis shoes as Christmas gifts to children 16 years old and younger.
"Our ultimate goal, over the long term, is that we multiply what we're doing," he said. "We want to spread it throughout metro Atlanta and the state of Georgia. We want to become a resource for partnering with other agencies ... so that we do become a resource for the community."
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