'This is a dream' Angel's House children's shelter dedicated

From The Times-Herald, Newnan Jan. 9, 2004 By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL sarah@newnan.com slideshow Three years of effort were commemorated as the Angel's House children's shelter was dedicated Thursday morning. "It was a dream," said founder Bernie Parks of the plans for Angel's House three years ago. "It could have been a pipe dream, but it wasn't." In November of 2000, Parks and several other ladies met with Coweta County Department of Family and Children's Services to discuss starting a shelter for children in Coweta County. "This is a dream, and this is what you all have done," Parks told the gathering. And now, the house is ready to go; all that's left is state inspections for the house to be able to open its doors to children. "It has been truly a magnificent experience," said Parks, who is chairman of the Angel's House board of directors. A large crowd turned out to stand in the frosty air for the dedication. Afterwards, everyone went into the house, which has now been fully decorated, for a tour and refreshments. Georgia First Lady Mary Perdue was the keynote speaker for the event. She and her husband Sonny served as foster parents for a short time, keeping infants waiting for adoption. State Rep. Lynn Smith was master of ceremonies. "As I told Lynn and Bernie, this project is exactly what I would like to see all over the state," Perdue said. Foster children "haven't had a champion" in Georgia, Perdue said, but she intends to be one. And when she travels around the state talking about the issue, she will tell everyone about the people in Coweta County that came together to create a children's shelter. And she is committed to "making sure, in Georgia, children in state care are well taken care of." But the government can't do it all, nor should it, she said. The way communities respond to and meet the needs of children is "of far greater value than anything the state can provide," Perdue said. Providing something like Angel's House "provides so much more than just a home," Perdue said. And getting involved in such a project "will enrich your lives as you enrich the lives of children who come into Angel's House." Perdue spoke briefly about some items that the governor wants to make sure to provide for the the budget, including $18 million to fund PeachCare health insurance and $12 million to support increased level of care services "that are so necessary for meeting the needs of children in state custody." Perdue said that she's convinced that, when the people of Georgia see a need for children, they will step up and meet that need. "I want to see effort like this brought to the forefront, so people will know," she said. She wants to "point to you as an example of to what we need to do all over the state of Georgia." "I know together we can make a difference in our state." Denise Jackson, honorary co-chair of Angel's House, was on hand with her parents Dan and Nell Jackson for the ceremonies. She and husband, country music star Alan Jackson, grew up in Newnan and have been big supporters of the project. They were given the honor of naming the facility, and did so remembering calling their own children "angel baby" or "angel biscuit." It is a name by which children staying there can refer to it without it being an institution - "Angel's House." Mrs. Jackson told the gathering she had been trying to think of what she was going to say at the dedication. She asked her husband, and he said "you'll figure it out," she said. Then she found a magnet in a drawer that used to be on her microwave. It contains verses from Matthew 25, and seemed to be the perfect thing, she said. "For I was hungry and you gave me foodÅ  whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done for me." "I think there's no better example" of that than Angel's House, Jackson said - a group of people seeing a need and responding to it. "That's what he commands us to do. He doesn't ask us to do, he commands us," she said. When it comes time for us to be judged, Jesus won't care what kind of car we had. He'll want to know how many times we have a ride to someone who needed it, Jackson said. "When we meet him face to face, there's no doubt he will ask us about Angel's House." Parks and board member Val Cranford expressed their thanks for the Jacksons' involvement in Angel's House. After a benefit concert, the Jacksons were asked to choose the name for the facility. But "they did more than give it a name, they gave it wings," Parks said. "They provided the credibility behind this project and made it take off." The fan club, helped too, as many Alan Jackson fans who read about the project sent in donations. And there are several autographed pictures of Jackson in the hallway, as well as a picture of the Jacksons' three children making snow angels in the sand. Angel's House has been supported by people from all over the country, "and I'm not kidding when I say that," Parks said. One woman from West Virginia recently sent a donation with a card that said "I hope this will help an angel I wasn't able to have." Another person, surfing the Internet in England, sent an angel. The Angel's House campaign raised approximately $1.1 million, Parks said. "It goes to show, when a community works together, what we can do," Parks said. She wishes that the whole country could see what happened in Coweta County. But even with the money that's left over and the money that will come from the state for the children, about $60,000 will need to be raised each year, she said. After Jackson spoke, local student Erin McGraw, daughter of Mike and Renee McGraw, sang "Angel." "If there's a dry eye, it's not because we didn't try," said Smith. Kenneth Dobbs, president of Georgia Baptist Children's Homes and Family Ministries, gave the benediction. Angel's House will be run by employees of Georgia Baptist Children's Homes. At the end of his prayer, Dobbs asked "may your angels protect Angel's House," the ribbon was cut and the ceremony ended. "Come in and see it. It's beautiful," said Parks.



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