By Diane Degnan, United Methodist Communications
When the fourth installment of the “Celebrity Apprentice” television show premiered on March 6, the kids at the United Methodist Children’s Home of the North Georgia Conference were likely watching — and rooting for Lil Jon. The Atlanta music producer, rapper and entrepreneur has selected the United Methodist Children’s Home as his designated charity while he competes on NBC’s hit show "The Celebrity Apprentice."
"I chose the United Methodist Children’s Home as my charity because it’s a personal thing for me. My family took in some foster kids when I was young, so I know the importance. Every kid deserves a good home, and the best opportunities," said Lil Jon of his selection of UMCH as his charity partner.
During the show’s 12-week run, Lil Jon will be joined by other celebrity contestants who will compete to raise money and awareness for various charities, as well as to vie for the title of “Celebrity Apprentice.” Each cast member chooses a charity to receive all of the winnings that he or she collects throughout the show. After each task, the money earned from the project goes to the winning team leader’s selected charity.
"We’re thrilled to be chosen as Lil Jon’s charity of choice for 'The Celebrity Apprentice,'" said Terence Johnson, Director of Programs at UMCH. "We appreciate any additional help possible that allows us to continue to serve children and struggling families."
With the earnings, the UMCH will continue to serve children and families in need by providing them a safe place to live and offering services and resources to prevent abuse and keep families together. The United Methodist Children’s Home, owned by the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church, has been a safe haven for abused children and youth since 1871. The ministry provides services for children from birth into their early 20s, including foster care, residential and family housing, and independent and transitional living for older youth.
Johnson said that Lil Jon, a Georgia native, had a personal connection with foster care, but did some additional homework on the Children’s Home before making the decision to choose it as his charity.
“Hats off to him, he took this very seriously,” said Johnson. “He said to me that he would like to come out and see for himself, not to just say ‘This is my charity.’ He spent most of the afternoon here, visiting with the kids, hanging out with staff members, chatting with former graduates and walking the campus. He learned about each and every program we offered, what they mean to children in families, and what our needs are here.”
Johnson says the children at UMCH are excited about "The Celebrity Apprentice" and hope to be able to plan a reception for Lil Jon and put on a talent show for him. For his part, Lil Jon has talked about helping the home even beyond "The Celebrity Apprentice," perhaps with a computer lab or a music studio.
"Some may not agree with his lyrics, but it's hard to disagree with his willingness to help and to give back," said Johnson. "He has a genuine concern for the well-being of families in need and children in need."
Dr. Derek McAleer, vice president for development at South Georgia’s Methodist Home for Children and Youth in Macon, hopes that the national exposure will help bring awareness to the work being done by Methodist Homes across the country.
“We hope that everybody learns more about the work that we do,” he said. “Most of the time, when people learn what we do, they want to be supportive of it. So that kind of advertising is worth so much. When people learn about us they seek us out for services, and we’re here to be the servant of people in need.”
Donations and charitable giving are crucial to the Children’s Home, with one third of their budget coming from donations.
“Without (donations) you’re doing very minimal stuff,” Dr. McAleer said. “It’s the difference between providing housing for children and providing a home.”