For the most part, this event bore little resemblance to a normal Project Live Love gathering. Instead of shorts and sneakers, guests arrived in little black dresses, suits and the occasional tuxedo. Instead of volunteers serving meals to others, the tables were turned and they were treated to savory and sweet finger foods served to them from platters. And instead of shouting to a crowd, with or without a bullhorn, Founder and Executive Director Drew Benton stood upon a stage, in front of a spotlight, behind a podium with a microphone, sound system and multi-media presentations to commemorate the birth of his vision for Project Live Love and host a night designed to celebrate, connect and contribute around that vision which began September 2009. With all its apparent departures from the norm, this night had at least on thing in common with the numerous events and countless hours of service that preceded it: LOVE.

On Saturday, September 6, 2014, Project Live Love hosted a red carpet event for upwards of 200 guests at 595 North in downtown Atlanta. The evening’s purpose was three-fold: To celebrate the five year anniversary of “influencing culture through love in action” and all those whose hearts have been transformed; to connect with loyal and prospective volunteers, each to one another and both to the ongoing mission; and to inspire everyone to contribute to the premise that one person can make a difference by putting their love in motion.

Drew and Executive Board Member C.J. Wilkes presented a look in the rear-view mirror, accounting for the miles traveled along this five year journey: 29 Service Events, 4420 Volunteers, 15,706 Service Hours, 92 local organizations, 151 projects, and over 13,000 human beings impacted by the collective heart of Project Live Love.  It was a moment to take stock of the amazing things that can happen when one person begins with the idea of engaging, networking and mobilizing people who are motivated by love.

Other highlights of the evening included heartfelt recognition of very special partners who have supported Project Live Love over the long-haul. Awards went to Presenting Sponsor Georgia Natural Gas, Partner of the Year Furniture Bank of Atlanta, Founder’s Award recipients Kel Long III, Alicia Benton and Luke Benton, Do Love Award recipient C.J. Wilkes and Labor of Love recipient Denise Fusco.

After sharing his personal life-changing encounter with Philip Bray, Drew turned over the evening to this man whose life and work as President and CEO of SafeHouse Outreach knows the depths of love’s role in repairing broken lives.

Finally, Drew shared his vision for Project Live Love’s forward movement which, in part, includes partnering with the United Way to provide GET SET, a program designed to offer individuals who are homeless numerous opportunities to “GET SET” for employment, growth, and advancement in Atlanta’s thriving hospitality industry. Then there’s The Hair Farmer. Not to be confused with the rock band from BC, Canada or the slang definition of someone who grows their hair out of laziness or social rebellion, The Hair Farmer is a “bearded” version of Locks for Love, where sponsored beard-growing turns into free haircuts to those less fortunate, among other things. And finally, Drew announced that, as the demands of the organization exceed its core team’s capacity, he sees new chapters beginning in other cities to transform more hearts and address community-specific needs. It’s clear that Project Live Love is poised for years to come.

As the evening came to a close, one more thing became clear. Drew’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Marty Benton were beaming with admiration at the remarkable accomplishments and sacrifices made by their son. A loyal contributor and participant himself, Mr. Benton closed the evening by addressing the audience and asking how each of them is willing to make a difference. It was through his impassioned stories that he inspired guests to commit themselves in writing to the future of Project Live Love.

The event was sponsored by Georgia Natural Gas, The John D. and Margaret H. Muirhead family, Ruth Nichols and the Shaklee Corporation, Chris Nichols and Field Nation, Inc., Michael and Denise Fusco and WorldClaim.  Thanks to the generous contributions of individuals and businesses, the silent auction generated significant proceeds and afforded guests valuable, gifts, services and experiences.

Special thanks to Crystal Hall and her team at 595 North Event Center for their impeccable event execution, to Jennifer Hodnett, Pam Nichols and the entire Live Love Gala team, Alicia Benton, Luke Benton, C.J. Wilkes, Mike Tharp, Jesse Lavender, and for each and every loving contribution that made this an event like no other.

Get involved with Project Live Love and plan to attend our 2nd Annual Live Love Gala in 2015. See all of the event photos on Facebook.