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Chocolate Extravaganza attracts hundreds, raises thousands

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By Kacie Goode

Brownies, cupcakes, buckeyes and other chocolate treats lined two large tables in the Guthrie Opportunity Center Saturday night as hundreds lined up for a taste. In its second year at the Nutter Drive location, the 2018 Chocolate Extravaganza attracted not only chocolate lovers, but also generous donors.

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“The amount that we took in is over $31,000,” said Marcella Crenshaw, executive director of The New Life Center, which the fundraiser benefits. At the first event eight years ago, about $1,200 was raised, she said, noting the tremendous growth in the event.

Crenshaw was not only appreciative of those who donated to the cause by purchasing tickets or bidding on auction items, but also of those who helped to make the event a success from the start.

“A little nonprofit like us cannot host something of this magnitude without numerous, numerous volunteers,” Crenshaw said, acknowledging the more than two dozen people who baked for the fundraiser, and the many others who donated items to the live and silent auctions. She also thanked those who helped set up for the event, as well as platinum sponsors Gary and Marsha Osborne, of Crume Drug Store. Before the chocolate buffet opened, Crenshaw shared with guests what the center sets out to accomplish and why their support is so vital.

The New Life Center is a faith-based, nonprofit family support center in Bardstown. It has served Nelson County for the last 19 years and offers parenting classes, peer mentorship and other resources for clients.

“Forty percent of our clients are court ordered,” Crenshaw said, explaining that many are referred to the center because of parenting difficulties or issues in the home. “We provide them with strategies that will help them become more effective parents. We have everything from the first trimester to parenting teenagers and all in between.”

Crenshaw said the center offers what it does because those who serve it are people of faith.

“We believe we are to serve other people and to help them when they are hurting,” she said.

That faith aspect is also important to the mentors who took the stage Saturday to share with the audience some of their favorite takeaways of being part of the program.

Marie Washburn, a board member, spoke about a young couple that came to the center expecting their first child. The mother was still in high school at the time.

“Through several encounters at The New Life Center, I was able to work with them as a mentor,” Washburn said. “I was able to mentor them through life.”

One afternoon, Washburn recalled, they announced they were going to get married. She sent them home with a Bible.

“I walked them through Corinthians and showed them what real love was,” she said. “If you’re going to get married and you love each other, this is how you do it.”

The couple is still married today and is expecting a second child, she said.

Marilyn Walker, who has been helping at the center for five years, said the work is some of the most life-changing she has ever experienced. Her most memorable client, she said, was a young tattooed girl with brightly colored hair.

Her first impression of the young woman left her reluctant to be a mentor, but in talking with her, she found that the client had a desire to better herself.

“She needed a mother figure. She needed somebody to give her the encouragement she was not getting from anyone else,” Walker said.

Today, Walker said the young woman is looking to attend medical school and is doing well. She has also been helping to give back to the center. Walker said working with The New Life Center is about planting a seed that will help clients grow in their lives, as well as exposing them to the love of Jesus Christ — which the volunteers aim to do with each encounter.

Woodilea Morgan, a mentor, and Tim Sizemore, former mentor and assistant director, also shared similar stories of young parents needing support and how they are now doing well.

When President of the Board Matthew Spandler Davison took the stage, he said the stories shared by the mentors Saturday is what The New Life Center is all about.

“It’s about the work of this ministry. In this city, there are many people who are broken, but we minister from a place of brokenness,” he said. “We are broken, we’ve made mistakes, we have failed, but we have discovered the one who leads us to hope and wholeness, and his name is Jesus Christ.”

The New Life Center is open Monday-Wednesday and is located at 202 E. Stephen Foster Ave. in Bardstown. Services are free and confidential. Among the services offered at The New Life Center is Earn While You Learn, allowing expectant parents or parents of children under 5 to earn essential childcare items while developing parenting and life skills. The center also offers a court-approved program, peer mentoring and information on additional services in the community. Learn more at www.thenewlifecenter.com.