From a surprise appearance of Gwinnett County Police K-9’s Elsa and Nitro to the entire 600+ audience getting to their feet to do the rollercoaster with students from HoPe (Hispanic Organization Promoting Education) – the Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia’s Good2Give Gala on August 19th was packed with surprises, fun, memorable moments and lots of celebrating all the good our area nonprofits do.
Hosted by Univision’s Mariela Romero and WSB Radio’s Scott Slade, the entire evening was dedicated to showcasing the incredible work our nonprofits do and the fund holders that support them. Drawing off of the success of last year’s inaugural gala, this year’s event, held at the Infinite Energy Forum’s Grand Ballroom, drew even more attendees and sponsors.
“Our goal with the Good2Give Gala is to spend an evening celebrating how much good we can do when we work together. We want to showcase how ‘Connecting people who care with causes that matter’ makes our entire community better,” said Randy Redner, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia. “From the packed ballroom to the feedback we’ve already received, I think we’re accomplishing our goal!
“We’re very grateful to our 38 sponsors and everyone who purchased a table or tickets and helped make the gala possible.”
During the evening, the Community Foundation highlighted five areas where nonprofits are making a big impact: community, human services, health care, arts and education. For each segment, emcees’ Mariela Romero and Scott Slade gave the crowd an update on the community’s needs in those areas and how nonprofits are filling the gaps.
As part of the community service segment, the Good2Give Gala highlighted Community Foundation fundholder Kathy Gestar, who donated two K-9’s through her Cody Fund to the Gwinnett County Police K-9 Unit. The new dogs, Elsa and Nitro, made a surprise appearance on stage with Kathy, along with Gwinnett County Police Chief Butch Ayers.
Moving on to the arts, the Community Foundation featured the Hudgens Center for Arts and Learning, showcasing all the exhibits and classes available to the public, as well as the emotional story of Ronika Gorden, a Healing Arts Class participant. For those interested in visiting the Hudgens, Community Foundation fundholders Matthew and Suzanne Holtkamp are sponsoring free admission throughout 2017.
David Araya who, along with his wife Angela, founded Hispanic Organization Promoting Education, took the stage during the education segment. He shared about HoPe, and had four current and former students planted throughout the audience who shared their accomplishments and aspirations. Then 70 students burst through the ballroom doors and got the entire audience on their feet to do the “rollercoaster”.
As the evening moved into human services, Tomika Waldon, a graduate of the Home of Hope at the Gwinnett Children’s Shelter, began sharing her story. Her emotional journey of homelessness that led to her and her then-4-year-old daughter living in their car and eating food samples from the Mall of Georgia food court to survive, brought the entire audience to tears and ended in a standing ovation.
One of the highlights of the night was the $25,000 giveaway. Between each segment, Redner took over the floor and gave away $5,000 to five nonprofits: Gwinnett Friends of Seniors, Gwinnett Symphony, Gwinnett Public Library, SAFFT (Supporting Adoption and Foster Families Together) and the Hope Clinic.
“It’s great fun to actually give away money at an event like this!” Redner said. “Our five nonprofits were surprised and grateful.”
The Good2Give Gala ended with the healthcare segment and told the story of the Hope Clinic, founded by Dr. Bill and Pam Martin. At the end, Sandra Strickland surprised the Martin’s by honoring them with a tribute and the last check of the evening.
“I’m very thankful for our incredible board members, staff and team who made this evening possible,” Redner said. “We’re already looking forward to next year!”