Four hundred guests joined together on April 28 for the inaugural Drive & Dine event at Porsche Experience Center Atlanta to raise $243,000 in support of Christian City Children’s Village and the Safe Place program. Event proceeds will help provide abandoned, abused, runaway and homeless youth a safe home in a loving family environment to heal their wounded spirits and thrive at Christian City Children’s Village. The South Fulton non-profit serves the entire metro Atlanta area and beyond.

Following a VIP reception among vintage Porsches in the Classic Car Gallery, guests had an opportunity to take a thrill ride around the 1.6-mile driver development track with a professional driver at the wheel. Cheryl Preheim, evening anchor of WXIA 11Alive News, served as emcee. As she welcomed guests at dinner, Cheryl said, “That ride was every bit as thrilling as any roller coaster I’ve ever ridden! Now I understand what the term performance vehicle really means!”

Porsche Experience Center is part of the 27-acre Porsche Cars North America headquarters adjacent to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The construction of the new headquarters in 2015 was Porsche’s largest investment outside of Germany. “We are thrilled to be able to invite our guests to experience this beautiful and unique venue while making a difference for children in need,” said LaVann Landrum, Chief Development Officer of Christian City and Newnan resident.

With a dramatic backdrop of flight departures and landings at the world’s busiest airport, event chairs Taylor and Anne Josey, took the stage. Philanthropists and residents of Newnan, the Joseys thanked guests for joining them in supporting Drive & Dine.

Taylor Josey is a commercial real estate professional and founding partner of Josey, Young & Brady Realty. He thanked sponsors and volunteers for answering the call to help fulfill the critical needs at Christian City Children’s Village and the Safe Place program. “Unfortunately, we are all aware that Atlanta is one of the top locations in this country for human trafficking,” Anne said.

She continued by sharing a list of heartbreaking statistics:
• Within the first 48 hours on the street, 33% of children are lured by sex traffickers.
• The number jumps to 90% when the youth remain on the streets.
• For both boys and girls, the average age of a child who is trafficked is 11-14.
• Sex trafficking is a $32-$50 billion profit industry in the U.S.
• The average remaining life span of a child once lured into sex trafficking is only 7 years.

Christian City Children’s Village is a licensed agency of the National Safe Place Program. Partnering with QuikTrip convenience stores, local fire stations, law enforcement agencies and recreation centers throughout metro Atlanta, staff and volunteers provide immediate support and safety for runaway and homeless youth. “We are so thankful to Christian City for stepping to the forefront to rescue these children and bring them to safety. Safe Place is one way we can prevent children from becoming victims of the sex trafficking industry,” Anne concluded.

Cheryl Preheim introduced Len Romano, President and CEO of Christian City and Sharpsburg resident, saying, “There is a peace in the place at Christian City. Len Romano is clearly working at his passion in leading this organization.” Romano joined Christian City in 2015 after a 36-year career with the YMCA. “You can’t give love if you haven’t received love,” he said. “We help abused and abandoned children experience love – sometimes for the first time,” Romano continued, “We want our kids to have the ‘eye of the tiger,’ and that comes from having hope. When they have hope, they can have a better life.”

Sarah Booth, Program Executive of the Residential, Safe Place and Transitional Living Programs, is a shining example of the difference Christian City Children’s Village can make in a child’s life. “I came to live at the Children’s Village when I was twelve,” she said. “In the beginning, I didn’t love it, but that changed.”

Sarah graduated high school and Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business. After a few years working in Atlanta, she came back “home” to Christian City to become Director of Safe Place. Since then, she has earned a Master’s degree in professional counseling and was recently promoted to Program Executive. Sarah stressed the need for volunteers and funding for basic food, clothing and shelter. “It takes $4 million per year to run the Children’s Village,” she said, sharing that she can relate to the children in her care today. Please know this program matters,” Sarah said to the crowd. “You guys have a chance to change the trajectory of a life.”

Landrum was overjoyed to see so many people from the community investing in the Children’s Village through the inaugural Drive & Dine event. “We sold all 400 seats well before the event date,” Landrum said. “The support from sponsors, volunteers and attendees has been phenomenal,” she said.

Drive & Dine also featured a silent and live auction. Four pieces of art by Atlanta artist Ruth Barrett, were featured in the live auction along with several unique travel packages. As Ruth took the stage, she said, “I feel very blessed to be an artist in Atlanta. When I paint, I ask God to create through me. I like to paint roads, because we are all on a journey, moving toward light and hope,” Barrett said. “I like to empower children to use their gifts, too,” she said. Over the past couple of months, Ruth worked with the youth at Christian City Children’s Village to coach them in developing their own art creations. She then grouped their art into theme-related pieces presented in the silent auction at Drive & Dine. George Franco, Fox 5 News reporter, served as auctioneer.

Dinner guests also heard from one of the top sponsors of the event, Steve and Marie Swope, residents of Newnan. Steve is the former Chairman & CEO of The Rubicon Group and currently serves with the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Addressing the guests of Drive & Dine, the Swopes expressed their desire to support organizations that make a profound difference. “God placed each of us on this planet to make a difference,” Steve said. “Everything we do every day of our lives is for ourselves or for someone else. I heard recently that we need to decide if we are pilgrims or tourists. Pilgrims make their communities better,” he said. Before leaving the stage, the Swopes invited the crowd to “join them as pilgrims on the journey.”