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Chocolate and charity
Annual Chocolate Run benefits Open Hearts Community Mission
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In this file photo, participants in the 2019 Chocolate Run are off to the races in the fog. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

A chance to indulge your love of all things chocolate and help a worthy cause at the same time is what the Chocolate Run is all about.

The 8th annual Chocolate Run to benefit Open Hearts Community Mission is set for Saturday at the Georgia Southern University RAC Pavilion. The Kids Fun Run begins at 8 a.m., the 5K/10K begins at 8:30 a.m., and awards are announced at 10 a.m.

Participants are indulged with sweet treats, a race T-shirt and lots of chocolate.

The inaugural Chocolate Run was the brainchild of the Leadership Bulloch Class of 2013 to benefit what was then only a dream and idea of a place to serve the homeless of Bulloch County. As a result of the event and other generous donations, the construction of the mission opened in 2017. Over the past seven years, the Chocolate Run has raised more than $240,000 for the mission.

“We raised a little over $50,000 last year,” said Delia Mobley, executive director of the Open Hearts Mission. “Our goal this year is $50,000, and we’re looking to have close to 1,000 participants this year.”

Open Hearts Community Mission is a faith-based ministry dedicated to serving the homeless. The mission statement reads, “To feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, restore the downtrodden and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The 30-bed mission was built behind the Statesboro Post Office to allow for growth to meet the needs of Bulloch County’s homeless. Residents are required to work, or actively seek employment, and save toward independent living. All residents have a case manager, mentor and life coach to help them craft goals and markers for moving forward in life.

“Open Hearts Community Mission strives to be God’s hands in Bulloch County,” Mobley said. “We’re here to provide love and redemption to people who have lost their way.

“We are nearing 1,000 days and nights of providing shelter and have served 3,000 meals,” she said. “Seventy persons in our community have been placed in the workforce through our program.

“What has come from the mission has far exceeded our expectations. It’s very exciting.”

Chip Gordon is just one of the many lives that has been changed by Open Hearts. A 53-year-old retired school teacher and hospital ER tech originally from Mississippi, Gordon fell onto hard times when he became addicted to pain medicine after a car accident back in 1994. That began a 17-year addiction to opiates.

After serving 18 months in prison for possession of methamphetamines, Gordon found out about Open Hearts Community Mission.

“Open Hearts opened their hearts to me and had a lot of patience with me,” he said. “They invite you in; they give you love and support. There’s a family atmosphere here. I started going to the Methodist church here and joined. I started volunteering, and I volunteer at the theater. I’m in recovery here.

“Those are the things I have to do to remain sober and clean. Open Hearts gives me the freedom to do those things. I recently got a job, and Open Hearts helps me save money to build a nest egg.”

With help from the mission, Gordon can once again plan for the future. The current resident hopes to save enough money to move out in four to six months and wants to give back by working in a rehab environment with those addicted to alcohol and drugs.  

“Redeeming life is the focus of Open Hearts Community Mission,” Mobley said. “Lamentations 3:57–58 says, ‘You drew near when I called out to you. You said, “Stop being afraid.” Lord, you have defended my cause. You have redeemed my life.’

“Providing a path for less fortunate members of our community who will seek to improve their lives is what we do every day. This is why we run.”

For more information or to register for the race, visit www.thesweetestrace.com, check out the Open Hearts Community Mission Facebook page or follow posts on www.ohcm.org.

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