VALDOSTA -- It was a day of celebration Sunday as Southland Church celebrated its five-year anniversary. Instead of having a self-congratulatory service and just looking at what their church has done for the past few years, church leaders honored several area organizations with Nehemiah Awards, a special $1,000 cash gift.

The awards, named for the Biblical Nehemiah who was called by God to help rebuild his city to a level of greatness, were awarded to The United Way, The Haven, Habitat for Humanity, New Covenant Church, Valdosta Fire Department, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education and America's Second Harvest. The usual $500 award is given monthly.

"What we wanted to do with the Nehemiah Awards was to recognize individuals and organizations that were doing something in Valdosta to rebuild Valdosta," Pastor Doug Griner said. The church recognized prior award winners and named the current winners.

Various city and county officials, such as Mayor Jimmy Rainwater and Sheriff Ashley Paulk, were also recognized for their efforts in making the area a better place to live.

"They serve our community at great, personal expense," said Pastor Lee Barnes about the various guests present at the service. "You can't please all the people all the time."

Rainwater spoke about good leadership and how it takes everyone working together to have a great town like Valdosta.

"It takes the real people," Rainwater said, while remembering an event he wanted to have in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and talking about the community support he's received. "I want to thank you for what you mean to this community, your church, the people that are here, because we do have a great community."



To contact reporter Marie Arrington, please call 244-3400, ext. 254.



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