Children dancing and singing on a sunny Saturday in Jarvis Creek Park on Hilton Head Island gave motion and voice to efforts by community-based organizations to improve the lives of low-income children.
The first of its kind Alternative Choice Gospel Event drew about 15 charitable groups and more than 200 people for a free cook-out, performances and arts and crafts designed to offer children and teens educational, moral and spiritual support.
The festivities in the park were sponsored by the Shattered Hope Project, an organization founded by Gloria Moss in 2003 to mentor children in the Sandalwood neighborhood.
Moss said she planned the event to reach out to other ministries with many of the same goals and to provide residents with information on services available around the area. Organizations such as Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse and the Bluffton-based Community First Inc. ministry, which works with single-parent households, set up tables and participated in the entertainment. The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry, for example, taught the crowd a dance and invited everyone to join in.
Terrance Pressley, a volunteer with Community First, said the help he received from the organization in getting his GEDinspired him to help mentor a group of boys known as the Wise Guys. The group, which receives help with homework, rewards for good grades and lessons in discipline, honor and respect, dressed in camouflage pants and performed a march for Jesus.
"It was something positive to do with my life," Pressley said of his mentoring efforts. "I wanted to tell them something I didn't know (as a child), something I wish someone had told me."
Moss said she has seen the children in her neighborhood change for the better.
"When they first met me, some of these kids were afraid to talk to me because they go through so much in their homes," she said. "They were so shy. They wouldn't open up because they were embarrassed about their lifestyle."
"But now they put what they go through in songs and are not ashamed."