By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Gala raises funds to help orphanages
1004orphan 1
Gov. Nathan Deal speaks to guests Thursday night at the inaugural World Orphan Fund Georgia Gala at Lake Lanier Islands in Buford. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Without families of their own, orphaned children and the centers that care for them often need assistance from those who are more fortunate.

More than 100 people, including Gov. Nathan Deal and first lady Sandra Deal, attended the first Georgia Gala benefiting the World Orphan Fund at Lake Lanier Islands Resort on Thursday night in Buford.

The fund was founded in 2011 by RJ Johnson, of Randolph Wis., after visiting an orphanage in Honduras with missionaries from the Gainesville First United Methodist Church on Thompson Bridge Road. The fund provides financial support and assists in establishing networks between foreign orphanages.

The nonprofit organization is run by volunteers, and 100 percent of donated funds are used to provide services for orphanages. The gala was funded by sponsors.

Since it was founded, the organization has visited 22 orphanages in Honduras, Guatemala and Israel and met some 2,900 children. The fund has raised $350,000 since it was founded.

Johnson said the No. 1 rule is the organization has to visit the orphanage before providing financial assistance. This is to ensure the request for assistance is legitimate, the more immediate needs of the children are being met and to determine any other areas that need assistance.

Johnson said recognizing additional needs is fairly common when visiting orphanages. On a visit to a small private orphanage in Honduras last year, the orphanage director asked for help with purchasing food for the children.

After reviewing the orphanage budget, Johnson saw more than $200 a month was being spent on bottled water. The facility’s well needed repairs, but with a limited budget already, the $2,000 it would cost was too expensive. The fund purchased and installed a new well and subsequently fixed the problem with the food budget.

“Our mission is transitional or transformational funding,” Johnson said. “So we work with orphan care providers to determine the areas where they could do better in a number of different things to better the lives of the children but can’t either see it or can’t afford it. It’s been interesting because oftentimes we’ll go to an orphanage and we’ll think we’re going there for one reason and then we’ll discover something else. And we’ll talk to them and they’re like, ‘that’s huge,’ but it wasn’t the thing that was on top of their list.”

Deal spoke to the group at the gala and praised the Gainesville and Hall County communities for their efforts in improving the lives of the less fortunate. He also praised the fund for its efforts in helping children.

Deal said while being reminded of the hardships others face isn’t always comfortable, sometimes “our consciences have to be pricked.”

Deal recited a verse from the Bible, James 1:27, saying it’s important to look after orphans.

“There’s some realities we all need to understand,” Deal said. “First of all, a child doesn’t decide what family they’re going to be born into. They don’t decide what the color of their skin is going to be or what country they’re born in or what language they speak. They are totally without any input in the circumstances that we sometimes hold them accountable for. That’s not reasonable, but sometimes that’s the way human nature is.”

Sandra Deal also spoke and praised many of the missionaries and donors in attendance for their efforts in assisting orphaned children.

The gala aimed to raise funds for a number of projects including computers for students to learn on, solar panels for another orphanage, and the formation of an orphanage for sexually abused girls in Guatemala.

For more information about the World Orphan Fund, visit

Regional events