In 1968, Max Johnson, Roger MacKenzie, and Stanley Blackman spearheaded the establishment of a Christian social services agency similar to Agape of Nashville, TN. A board of directors was elected and on August 8, 1968, Georgia Association for Guidance, Aid, Placement and Empathy, Inc was incorporated under the laws of the State of Georgia. The agency became known as Georgia Agape, Inc.
By the first of 1970, a plan for financial support was established; an executive director and secretary were hired; and an office, provided by Loftin Phillips, owner of Northwest Exterminating Co., and member at Smyrna, was opened.
In its 1973 construction expansion, the Smyrna church included an office building for Agape.
Smyrna/Burnt Hickory Church’s History with Georgia Agape
- The Smyrna congregation was the inspiration behind AGAPE for a long time. This congregation led the way in getting the agency started and in the agency’s growth in the early years.
- Stanley Blackman, the minister of the Smyrna congregation, served as the President of the Agape Board of Directors for the first seven years, from 1968-1975.
- For 21 years the Smyrna congregation provided the office space for the AGAPE offices from 1973-1994. The church then built an office building adjacent to the church for AGAPE. After this, the Agape office moved to its present location off of Mercer University Drive.
- The Smyrna congregation built a house in 1973 to be used to care for children by Agape called Harbor House. This was used by Agape for about 25 years. Bob and Barbara Walker served as Harbor House houseparents for many years.
- Dot Landers began working for Agape in 1971 and retired in 1990. She then served on the Agape Board of Directors for 6 years. She was truly the champion of our ministry. In honor of Dot’s legacy, the Board established the “Dot Landers Service Award” in 1990 which is given to those who significantly help the agency forward its mission. “Miss Dot,” as she was affectionately called, was the one person instrumental in Agape moving forward over the years. She was described as the hub of the agency! Virtually every service revolved around her in some way. Burton Landers also served on the AGAPE Board of Directors as did many from the Smyrna/Burnt Hickory congregation.
The work of Agape continues. Even during a worldwide pandemic, the need for loving homes for children being removed due to abuse and neglect didn't wane. In fact, the pandemic exacerbated many issues, worsening family circumstances. Many of our services had to be adapted to include safety measures yet we continued to accept placements. We also continued to witness strengthening of families and the creation of lifelong connections.
As the Executive Director of Agape, I remain committed to serving community children and families. The need for loving foster families and adoptive homes is even more urgent now. There are over 11,000 children in Foster Care in the state of Georgia and not enough loving homes to care for each one. In addition, changes in legislation for both foster care and private adoption means the need for more families will continue to rise. Please consider partnering with Agape and becoming part of the solution.