The Augusta Exchange Club distributed 58 checks totaling $165,000 to charities Thursday in what members referred to as one of their favorite days of the year.
Each year the club distributes money raised from its two annual fundraisers – the Georgia-Carolina State Fair and the Augusta Charity Classic, which takes place March 28 at Champions Retreat Golf Club – to local organizations making a difference in the community. This year donations exceeded $190,000, with the majority given out at Thursday’s luncheon at First Baptist Church in Augusta.
As he stood next to one of Augusta’s largest churches, Augusta Exchange Club President Rick Evans spoke of the 58 organizations receiving donations.
“We’ve only seen this much,” he said holding two fingers about
an inch apart, “of what these guys do.”
The organizations ranged from food pantries and women’s shelters to physical rehabilitation and arts-focused organizations.
As the recipients’ representatives received their checks, emcee Brad Means pointed out some of their plans for the money, which range from increasing existing programs to new projects.
For instance, the Augusta Children’s Chorale will use the money to help the children perform at Carnegie Hall; the Downtown Cooperative Church Ministry will use the money for its pantry, which would have seen its food decrease in amount or quality without the donation; Fireside Ministries and Industries will help with a gardening project in Harrisburg; and the Boys and Girls Club will strengthen its programs for Augusta’s youth.
This year’s Ronnie Strength Award was presented to Kids Restart. The award was created and named for Strength, who was considered a “key part” of the club, after he retired as Richmond County sheriff. As is tradition, current Sheriff Richard Roundtree chose the recipient.
Roundtree said he spoke with deputies about the issues they see in the community and the most heartbreaking one is when children are separated from their families and placed into foster care.
Kids Restart is a local nonprofit started in 1999 to help families at risk of having children taken into foster care and to help them after they have been reunited.
Executive Director Daniela Coppess, who accepted the donation, said the program, which has a 98 percent success rate, includes parenting classes, supervised visitation and other enrichment activities.
“Foster care is a very traumatic time for children,” she said.
The money will go toward funding the existing programs.