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Gospel Fest highlights organ-tissue donation

OW Staff | 11/23/2010, 7:32 p.m.

OneLegacy, the non-profit organ and tissue recovery organization serving the greater Los Angeles area and a representative of Donate Life California is partnering with the California Southern Third Jurisdiction Church of God in Christ and the City of Refuge Church Men of the City to present the second annual "Give Thanks Give Life GospelFest" on Nov. 27 during New Direction Church in Pomona "When Women Praise" and Dec. 3-5 during the Man-Up Conference "When Men Worship," at the City of Refuge Church in Gardena. Admission is free.

The Give Thanks Give Life GospelFest will be one of several events going on nationwide in recognition of National Donor Sabbath an interfaith observance to raise awareness throughout religious communities of the urgent need for organ and tissue donation and to encourage participation in Donate Life's Give Thanks Give Life program.

Initiated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1996, the program encourages faith-based communities to focus attention on the benefits of organ and tissue donation and its biblical basis.

Performances at New Direction C.O.G.I.C. will include praise and worship with Vidia, Gospel Music Channel's "Gospel Dream" winner Melinda Watts, the New Direction Mass Choir, the California Southern Third Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Choir, the L.A. Inner City Mass Choir, and featured performer Karen Clark Sheard.

The following weekend Donate Life presents the Man-Up Conference culminating in the Give Thanks Give Life GospelFest featuring the Men of the City annual concert with performances by Byron Cage, Lowell Pye, and the Men of the City Chorus.

It starts on Friday, Dec. 3, when Pastor Rance Allen and Bishop Paul Morton open the weekend with an evening worship service. On Saturday a Healthy Family Festival offers free health screenings, healthy cooking demonstrations, a panel discussion in honor of World Aids Day. For the youth, First A.M.E. will host First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move L.A. Initiative.

At noon, City of Refuge Bishop Noel Jones conducts a men's only luncheon and panel discussion with community and health leaders. The weekend concludes on Dec. 5th with the Give Thanks Give Life GospelFest: Men of the City annual concert with the doors opening at 6 p.m.

According to OneLegacy's Ralph Sutton there will be added value to the soul stirring music. "There will also be inspiring testimonials from 'voices' within the African American community who represent the faces of organ and tissue donation. These are Donate Life Ambassadors who will share their transplant experience either as an organ-tissue donor family member or as a recipient who has been blessed because the gift of life was passed on, in most cases, by a complete stranger," he said. "Recognition will also be given to the TNT Television series "HawthoRNe" for a compelling episode concerning organ and tissue donation."

Sutton said this year's campaign will form an alliance between OneLegacy's Donate Life, the A.M.E., C.O.G.I.C., C.M.E., Pentecostal and Baptist leaders to champion passing on the gift of life within their denominations.

"Locally and nationally, we as African Americans, represent the majority of people on dialysis and on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. But we lag behind Caucasians and Latinos in designating our legacy through organ donation, even though the best match for a kidney transplant is tied to ethnicity," Sutton continued. "Our churches, as they have in the past and do today regarding health care issues, are vital in addressing this problem and can do that by actively including organ and tissue donation and awareness in its health ministry."

"We are thankful for leaders like New Direction's Bishop Wyatt and City of Refuge's Bishop Jones and others who are championing the Give Thanks Give Life campaign. Now, in this Thanksgiving and Christmas season, we are looking to spread the word about passing on a gift of life that has already been paid for so that we could share it with others. Organ and tissue donation is in the doctrine for all stewards," Sutton concluded.