From the Williamson Herald
Couples will be spending their Valentine’s Day cutting a rug while helping people in African nations as part of the second Fabulous Friends for Africa Valentine’s Day Dance.
In 2008, five friends who had their 50th birthdays within six months of each other decided to throw a party. Not just any party, but one that would help people live healthy lives and be able to reach their own 50th birthdays. They called themselves the Fabulous Friends for Africa.
The dance, which was the group’s first time putting it together, raised almost $50,000 forAfrican Leadership, an organization supporting projects in Africa such as widespread famine, HIV/AIDS and displaced Darfur refugees. AL is currently training 10,000 pastors and church leaders in 22 African nations. This year, the Friends intend to raise double that with a goal of $100,000.
Terrie Hill, an original Fabulous Friend, sums up this year’s dance in one word: “bigger.”
There will be a bigger mix of people helping bring bigger benefits to the people of Africa. Besides being bigger, the dance will be a little longer this year.
Though the comments the Friends heard about the dance were glowing, some expressed they wished they had known more people. The Friends listened, and they have established Fabulous Friend Finders, which enables those who attended last year to create lists of about 10-15 friends they would like to have invited.
It’s similar to the friend suggesting component of the social networking site, Facebook.
Many of the friends’ college-aged children will be attending and bringing friends.
Also, Sophie Shear, a professional dance instructor at Fellowship Bible Church, has invited her classes to attend as well.
Hill joked that her son does the backwards “Worm” dance and the group said there was plenty of freestyle dance last year, not like a prom where it seemed necessary for a date.
The group is keeping it open by offering dessert and only providing a broad “festive” dress code which can mean different things for different people.
It offers a “healthy” and “romantic” alternative for Valentine’s Day, said Mary Warren, who helped her husband, Larry Warren, found AL.
“Everybody that comes [will] be somewhat more aware of what’s going on in Africa and opportunities to give or serve,” said Jane Carroll of Fabulous Friends.
There will be an AL booth and AL President Larry Warren, Mary’s husband, will speak and show slides during one of the breaks.
The group of friends is expanding and is composed of nurses, stay-at-home moms, a bookkeeper and a receptionist. They are not professional fundraisers, but have already raised more than last year’s total from speaking with local businessmen and explaining why they should get involved.
The group used the money last year to help build a childcare facility in a slum outside of Cape Town, South Africa, and to distribute $10,000 in micro loans to the women of the Village of Hope in Gulu, Uganda.
This year, AL presented the group with three proposals for what the money raised from the dance could benefit. The group deliberated before finally deciding that they could not choose and would help with all three projects.
“How can we turn down the orphan care project or do we give all our money to that and tell those guys, ‘Sorry you can’t have your vocational school?’ It’s a heady thing, kind of, to see what your money is going to go towards and what it is not going to go towards,” said Carroll.
One of the projects consists of building a vocational school in Kibera, Kenya.
The vocational school, which has a $230,000 price tag, would be constructed on the land of an established church, which currently supports a preschool as well as a K-8 grade school.
The new school would have eight classrooms to train 180-200 students each year in fields of woodworking, welding, tailoring, computer skills, accounting, automobile mechanics, electrical training and catering/cooking skills.
The second project for Fabulous Friends is to help with an orphan care facility in Lizulu, Malawi — one of the poorest countries in the world. The Lizulu Orphan Care project is a dramatic five-year expansion of a community effort, which has been helping care for orphans for almost a decade.
The average household in Lizulu, where about 3,000 orphans live, subsists on less than 75 cents per day. The project would help provide clothing, blankets, food, medical and spiritual care, as well as an education for about 360 orphans at the cost of approximately $50 per child per year.
The final project was providing study Bibles for pastors in training.
People are copycatting the idea for the benefit throughout the U.S. The group has received calls for information from as far as Colorado.
“I hope that there would be many, many, many copycat events,” said Hill. “It really speaks of God’s blessing to us because if want to know the truth, we are a motley crew. I think God has given us blessing despite ourselves.”
The Valentine’s Day dance will be held Feb. 14 from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. at Liberty Hall in The Factory in Franklin. Attire will be festive with music by Entice. A minimum donation of $50 is requested per person.
By Kiri Lanice Walton, Staff Writer