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Oil spill prompts push to aid Ala. churches


ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (BP)–Jimmy Buffett may have brought some much-needed tourist money to the Alabama Gulf Coast with his recent concert. Now, the community of faith is taking the stage to help churches aid local people whose lives have been upended by the Gulf oil spill.

“Worship at The Wharf” is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 15, at The Wharf amphitheater complex in Orange Beach, Ala., from 4:30-7 p.m.

The idea for the event, billed as “Christians responding to crisis through prayer and giving” as part of a Restoring Hope Project, was sparked in a conversation between two “average Joe’s” — Joe Savage and Joe Shirk — about how the Buffett concert helped bring attention to the oil-stained Alabama coast. However, Savage and Shirk felt attention still needs to be focused on the many local residents who continue to suffer mentally, physically, financially and spiritually.

“The one organization or entity along the Gulf Coast which is best suited to help families most in need are local churches,” said Savage, director of the University of Mobile’s Center for Leadership Development. “They know the greatest needs in the community and they know who has those needs more than anyone else.”

Shirk, a member of the contemporary Christian band Big Daddy Weave, had spoken to a minister about those with ongoing struggles stemming from the oil spill crisis, and he thought the management at The Wharf would donate use of the amphitheater to help the community.

After many hours of planning, the Restoring Hope Project emerged. At least 50 local churches are expected to participate in the initiative.


“The local church was there yesterday. They are there today. And they will be there tomorrow,” Savage said. “This is one of the primary reasons we are working to provide resources through local churches.”

Although no admission will be charged for “Worship at the Warf,” those attending are asked to donate at least $10. If a capacity crowd can fill The Wharf’s 10,000 seats, the concert could raise $100,000 to help those most affected by the oil spill along the Alabama coast.

Organizers say the money will be used to purchase gift cards for food at local grocery stores. This is greatly needed, as some participating ministers say their weekly church receipts have fallen by 40 percent since the oil spill caused havoc in the local economy. Programs that have provided benevolent assistance for years are struggling to survive.

“No one is making a dime off of this event,” Savage said. “The entire thing is being led and organized by volunteers from a variety of Christian ministries and causes.”

More than 500 people from local churches and organizations are donating their time and services, Savage said. On a more national scale, the Restoring Hope Project is seeking to initiate partnerships between churches from across the country and churches and families on the Gulf Coast in need.

Big Daddy Weave, which formed when band members were attending the University of Mobile in the late 1990s, will take a break from their current national tour to appear at Worship at The Wharf. Also scheduled to perform are Alicia Williamson Garcia, Mark Harris, Deluge, Lindell Cooley and Nikeland Nichols. Additionally, Ed Litton, pastor of North Mobile Baptist Church in Saraland, Ala., will bring an inspirational message.

Churches in need of funds to distribute to people impacted by the oil spill can contact the Restoring Hope Project, through an e-mail to Savage, [email protected], for an application.

According to the www.restoringhopeproject.com website, a team of five business and church leaders has volunteered to oversee the disbursements. “There is a criterion that has been established which determines who, how, and why funds are dispersed based on an individual church, community, or families needs,” the website states.

A local CPA, Mark Hieronymus from the firm of Wilkins, Miller, Hieronymus, LLC in Mobile, “has agreed to voluntarily oversee all recordkeeping for the project,” the website states.

In another statement regarding accountability for the initiative, the website states: “The Restoring Hope Project is simply a DBA (doing business as) of Winners Influence which is an IRS recognized 501c3 not-for-profit organization. Winners Influence (also called Joe Savage Ministries) was established in 1992 and has quietly provided humanitarian aid to orphanages, churches, communities, and the impoverished for almost twenty years. In January 2010, the organization which is based in Gulf Shores, Alabama, gave leadership and coordination to the Mobile Festival of Hope in Mobile, Alabama which enlisted 2,100 volunteers and served more than 10,300 people in need. The effort included the participation of Convoy of Hope (co-presenter), Samaritan’s Feet, Under Armor Senior Bowl, Integrity Music, and almost 100 churches and organizations.”

Savage can be contacted at [email protected] or at 251-675-7551.
Compiled by Baptist Press staff.