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Car City 2016 to raise money to fight homelessness in Houston County

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Building awareness of homelessness and putting an end to it in Houston County is the goal of Car City 2016 — Putting the “Brakes” on Homelessness.

Celebrating its third year, this annual event is a unique fundraiser for the entire family. Family Promise of Greater Houston County, the host group, pledges an entertaining evening as participants gather at 5 p.m. Sept. 16 at Central Georgia Technical College in Warner Robins. Activities will continue through the night until the event ends Sept. 17 at 7 a.m.

The whole point is to experience what a homeless person experiences. Volunteers and community participants will spend a night in their cars to experience homelessness as so many families and children in Houston County do.

“We are so excited to have Nashville singer Colby Dee and TV/movie actor Jerad Leland join us on the 16th for an evening of great entertainment,” said Carolyn Schomer, Family Promise volunteer. “Boy Scout Troop 566 will host a soup kitchen again, and the Girl Scouts will be out with a cookie buffet.”

Emcee for the event will be Amanda Kozak Miliner, 2015 Houston County Teacher of the Year and a Top 3 runner-up in the Miss America Pageant from Warner Robins a few years back.

“Amanda has been a faithful volunteer for the past two years, and we are pleased she is taking on this new role as emcee for Car City,” Schomer said.

Throughout the evening, Miliner will be introducing entertainers in addition to Colby Dee and Jerad Leland, such as Heart of Georgia Barbershop Chorus, the singing group G Swag from Oakgrove Missionary Baptist Church, Janis Marcum singing the national anthem, female trio Faith, Hope & Love, Destined for Greatness from Union Grove Baptist Church and Melanie Woods, Miss Northside High School, who also was named Miss Outstanding Teen in Gwinnett County.

There will be popcorn, marshmallow roasting, a Flashlight Scavenger Hunt and even a Decorate Your Vehicle contest. Breakfast for those who stay overnight will be served at 6 a.m.

“Car City is a fundraiser, so overnight participants obtain sponsors to pay for their ‘parking space’ for a minimum of $100 per vehicle,” Schomer said. Each $100 donor also receives a T-shirt. “But those who just want to come out and enjoy the evening’s entertainment are more than welcome for a minimum donation of $10 each.”

There also are sponsorships available for businesses, organizations and individuals and are described at the website www.FPHOPE.org.

“Family Promise strives to end homelessness one family at a time,” organization member Dave Razo said. “Our stated mission is to mobilize congregations and partner with social agencies in order to help families obtain independent sustainable living.”

The success rate indicates the organization’s efforts are working. In 2015 alone, 44 individuals were served by Family Promise, which included food, shelter and loving care for 30 children. Case plans, guidance, job searches were provided for 14 adults, and a home and 24/7 support was given for 13 families.

Upon completion of the Family Promise program, 92 percent of adults were employed, 60 percent of families were in their own home, apartment or transitional housing, 30 percent were with families or friends — demonstrating that many obstacles that brought them to homelessness were overcome.

A little known fact is that the Houston County school system reported that 265 students last year were homeless. Family Promise volunteers say that the number of homeless children is probably double when you consider there are many preschoolers as well.

“People are so generous in Houston County, which is greatly appreciated,” Razo said. To learn more about Family Promise, visit its website at www.familypromise.org.

Marsha Priest Buzzell is the executive director of the Warner Robins Convention & Visitors Bureau and may be contacted at 478-922-5100 or cvb@wrga.gov.

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