Purpose of God Annex holds 16th annual fundraiser dinner

Published 6:37 pm Monday, March 19, 2018

19 years ago, in January of 1999, Bishop Samuel Jones Jr. heard a voice. After learning about an unusual amount of local suicides in young people ages 18 to 25, Jones felt God calling him to do something.

“I heard a voice saying ‘I need your help,’” Jones said. “I thought it was me at first. I thought it was my desire to help and I thought ‘I can’t do anything to help anybody.’ So I dismissed it.”

In April, following the massacre at Columbine High School, Jones says he heard the voice again. A third time, after a pair of bomb threats at P.S. Jones Middle School and Washington High School, the voice spoke to Jones. It was then that he, along with his wife, Mother Regina Jones, and Harold Gardner III, stood to answer the call.

Together, the three founded the Purpose of God Annex in the wake of these tragedies. Nearly 20 years later, POGA has become a fixture in Washington and Beaufort County as a whole. On Thursday, the organization held its 16th annual fundraising dinner.

“We started with 80 kids in a 1,500 square foot building,” Jones recalled. “One bathroom, one room with sockets, no air conditioning, no heat, no comforts of life. I had $2,700 I had received from my church members as a gift. I invested that into those kids and got started.”

TEACH A TEEN: Cameron Sutton, who participated in the Purpose of God Annex’s ‘Teach a Teen’ program, shares how the organization has impacted his life. Sutton plans to attend N.C. A&T this fall, where he intends to study athletic training and sports management. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)

From those humble beginnings, the Annex has gone on to serve more than 4,000 children and youth through its after school offerings, summer programs and homebound students programs. For kids who might need additional guidance, the Annex also offers programs for out of school suspensions, as well as a tough-love camp.

Perhaps most innovative of all is the Annex’s ‘Project New Hope’ program, which works with disadvantaged or at risk youth, as well as adults who have been in trouble with the law, to provide education and pre-employment training. For those who graduate from the program, a number of employment opportunities await. According to Jones, approximately 3,500 individuals have completed this program.  

“We teach them how to go to work everyday and how to fill out an application,” Jones said. “The whole idea is to teach them how to fish, to teach them to not keep begging and feeling entitled, but to know how it feels to have self-worth.”

Three graduates of that program spoke during Thursday’s dinner, as well as a student from the Annex’s ‘Teach a Teen’ program. Each of these men, ranging in age from teenage to middle age, attested to the audience of the positive impact the Annex has had on their lives, and the second chances afforded to them.

PROJECT NEW HOPE: Project New Hope Graduate James Alligood shared that he might not be alive today if not for the Project New Hope program.

While fundraising totals for the event were unavailable as of Monday afternoon, the event attracted a wide range of local officials, including District Attorney Seth Edwards, Beaufort County Commissioner Frankie Waters, Beaufort County Sheriff Ernie Coleman, Washington Police and Fire Services Director Stacey Drakeford, Washington Mayor Mac Hodges and Washington City Manager Bobby Roberson.

Also in attendance were representatives of various churches that partner with POGA, including First Presbyterian, Mt. Olive Church and Terra Ceia Christian Church. Other organizations attending the dinner included Washington Police and Fire, N.C. Works, Social Services and the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

“These people make it work,” Jones said. “We get a lot of support from the local and state governments.”

A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Purpose of God Annex Outreach Center receives portions of its funding from United Way, the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and the City of Washington.

Tax-deductible financial donations can be mailed to ‘Purpose of God Annex’ 1015 E. Sixth Street, Washington, N.C. 27889. Special opportunities to sponsor a child for afterschool, homebound and summer enrichment programs are available as well.

In addition, the organization accepts donations of clean, professional clothes and accessories for men and women. The purpose of God Annex is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. For more information, click to www.pogannex.com or call 252-974-1484.