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Project Hope puts church members to work serving community needs
Friendship Elementary School principal Barry Walton helped members of Celebration Church in Hoschton paint the cafeteria. The member churches of the Chattahoochee Baptist Association launched Project Hope to do mission work without leaving their home community.

The Chattahoochee Baptist Association is proving there really is power in numbers.

For the last several years, its members have come together for a day of service called Project Hope. Last year, more than 1,100 volunteers touched the lives of more than 6,000 individuals in their communities.

"Every year, we try to do a tangible project in the community to show God’s love," said Frank Greenway, project coordinator.

"This year, we particularly focused on schools in our individual communities. We picked the schools because we wanted to show our support for the teachers, staff and students. We wanted to encourage them and show them that the community really cares about them."

The association is a network of 70 different churches and missions across Northeast Georgia. The organization has members in Hall, Jackson, Lumpkin and Dawson counties.

Each church chose which school they wanted to assist and what project they wanted to complete. There were school supply drives, beautification projects and clothing drives.

Blackshear Place Baptist Church in Flowery Branch created a teachers lounge for the educators at Spout Springs Elementary School, while Celebration Church in Hoschton painted the cafeteria at Friendship Elementary School.

"Some churches did things like hold food drives to send food home with the kids who might not otherwise have ample food on the weekends," Greenway said.

The idea for Project Hope was born from Riverbend Baptist Church’s Hope for the Harvest, which was launched in 2005.

"Hope for Harvest began with a desire by a number of folks in our congregation to do a mission trip in our own backyard," said Matt Wethington, Riverbend senior pastor.

"It is a firm conviction of ours that we have a responsibility not only to go to the ends of the Earth, but also to our own backyard. If we can’t reach out to our immediate neighbors, then we don’t have any business doing anything overseas, either."

Although this year the association focused on schools, over the last five years members have completed a variety of "servant evangelism projects." They’ve done such things like holding free spaghetti lunches, providing free lawn care for senior citizens and even performing free oil changes.

The idea may have started at Riverbend, but Wethington is happy to see that the concept has spread like a wildfire.

"That’s the way it ought to be. If every church could do something, the ministry would be multiplied exponentially," Wethington said.

"There’s no right or wrong thing to do. Each church knows their community and its immediate needs better than anyone else, so they are able to cater to that.

"It’s neat to see how the different churches have been able to reach out and share the love of Jesus Christ in a very tangible way."