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Farm to Fork to benefit Lily Pad

ALBANY, Ga. -- In the South, eating is almost a spiritual experience.

People eat when they're happy. They eat when they mourn.

So, when supporters of the Lily Pad, Southwest Georgia's resource for children who have been physically and sexually abused, needed a fundraiser, they decided to base it on food.

"So much of Southwest Georgia's identity lies in agriculture and farmland and things that are grown from the earth," fundraiser creator Kirk Rouse said. "So what a great way to engage local producers in something that benefits so many."

Now in its third year, the Farm-to-Fork fundraiser is lowering its ticket price in a way to get more people involved while still raising money for the Lily Pad.

Tickets are now $75 for the event, which is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Cypress Pond Plantation, Rouse said. Tickets can be purchased by calling (229) 435-0074.

This year, organizers are collaborating with the Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, which is celebrating the national organization's 100th anniversary. The scouts are growing some of the food that will be served at the event.

Rouse said that most of the food at the event will be supplied by area farmers and growers like Stripling's and White Oak Pastures.

Also added to the delicious mix this year are the folks from the Southwest Georgia Project, a non-profit with a mission to "empower communities to work for a change through education, advocacy and economic development."

Throw in Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital's kitchen and Shirley Sherrod's New Communities plantation, and Rouse thinks he has the ingredients for an incredible night.

"That's the goal, to have something memorable that people can get behind," Rouse said, "because the numbers at the Lily Pad are just staggering and they need as much support as we can give them."

The Lily Pad serves a 32-county swath of Southwest Georgia, providing service through the Firefly House, the Boren Center for Sexual Assault, Dougherty CASA and Child Visitation.

While they may not have grown anything to bring to the table Thursday, local sponsors of the event are no less vital to the success of the night, Rouse said. Those include Draffin and Tucker, United Distributors, Heritage Bank and Watson and Spence.