Local church to hold service music festival

BUFORD - Amigos for Christ launched its campaign to provide aid to the villages of Nicaragua 10 years ago. In the decade since its inception, Amigos for Christ has raised $35 million in aid for the Central American nation and its surrounding countries, and the church hopes to continue its legacy with the Celebrate Service Music Festival on Sept. 25 and 26.

The Celebrate Service Music Festival, in its fourth year, is a weekend-long celebration of community, spirit and philanthropy. Beginning with an annual Golf Classic at 11 a.m. Friday at Chateau Elan, the event leads into a jam-packed Saturday at Suwanee Town Center Park, 310 Town Center Ave. in Suwanee.

Festivities on Saturday will kick off at 9 a.m. with the Strides for Strength 5K race, followed by the Hoops for the Hungry three-on-three basketball tournament at 10 a.m. From the Pedal for the Poor bike ride at 1 p.m., attendees can visit the Salsa Showdown at 3 p.m., pitting the best salsa makers against each other. Meanwhile, music will begin at noon. The music schedule includes nine popular local and national artists, including Fee, Matt Maher, 12 Stone Band and Banks and Shane.

"We're an international mission, and this is our opportunity to do something locally," said John Bland, director of Amigos for Christ, of the event. "We want to build into the community here in Gwinnett County."

Proceeds from the Celebrate Service Music Festival will go to provide a water system for the poor community of El Chonco in Nicaragua.

"People are suffering a lot from disease in that community because the water is contaminated," Bland said. "We're raising money to drill a water well and provide clean, safe drinking water for the community."

"It's the poorest Spanish-speaking country in the entire world," he added. "We feel our call from God is to serve those people, to help them improve both their physical and spiritual situation."

The free event, sponsored in great part by Holtkamp Heating and Air of Buford, will also include giant inflatables, games, food vendors and a nonprofit fair. The larger events, including the basketball tournament, 5K race and golf tournament, include small registration fees. More than 30 local nonprofit service organizations and churches are participating in the event.

In commemoration of its 10th anniversary, Amigos for Christ is also offering the opportunity for area nonprofits to win a $10,000 grant.

"We encourage everyone to come out," Bland said. "There's a great spirit in the air that God always provides for the event."

Amigos for Christ is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Its focus is on improving the conditions for Nicaragua, including water, sanitation, health care, education and community development projects.

For more information on the Celebrate Service Music Festival, hosted by Amigos for Christ, visit www.amigosforchrist.org. Registration for the competitive events is also available on the Web site.