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North Carolina adoption agency provides future for parents, children in need

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — “I can’t imagine loving any child more than I love both of mine,” Tonia Sides said. “I’ve always felt like it was meant to be — that God made them especially for me. I may not know what it’s like to give birth to a child, but this was an instant bond.”


Tonia Sides, a stay-at-home mother, now serves on the Agape board of directors and hopes to someday help another mother and father experience such a bond.
The nonprofit organization works hand-in-hand with the state’s 100 counties by providing Christian homes for children, many who have been abused or abandoned — others who are given up to a better life.
But meeting the needs of those children has not been easy over the 25 years the organization has been in existence.
At the beginning, “the financial challenges seemed unreachable, and there was no guarantee that there would be enough interested Christian families in the state to meet the needs,” said Agape executive director Thomas Slaughter, who experienced the loss of four babies with his wife before adopting. “Since then, it has grown tremendously. Finances were a severe problem for the first 18 years.”
Agape is now sustained through one-time donations and monthly support from congregations and individuals across the state. One such congregation is the Roosevelt Drive church in Jacksonville, which the Sides family attends. The 150-member congregation, small like many across the state, held its 21st annual Agape Giving Day recently.
But the church’s numbers have never restricted its generosity. Members donated more than $9,200 this year on top of their regular contribution — most of it in coins.
Throughout the year, members keep cans in their homes and collect loose change. Over the 22 years, loose change from Roosevelt Drive members has equaled $110,000 that has gone to the organization. And that, Slaughter said, is priceless.
“Without that support, we wouldn’t survive,” he said.
Ron Edwards, minister of the Roosevelt Drive church, knows small congregations can make an immeasurable impact. He never leaves home in the morning with change in his pocket — it all goes into his Agape can.
“It’s a tradition for us now,” Edwards said. “When we save our money in containers through the year, it’s for the children who deserve the care. The emphasis has always been on the children.”
The focus is on little boys like one 10-year-old whose life changed through the Agape program.
“This boy had cerebral palsy and was wheelchair-bound,” Slaughter said. “He was a very, very angry little boy because he’d been exploited by his family.”
The boy’s family would parade him in public for money. He was abused and neglected.
“When he was leaving our care, the thing that stands out the most was when I asked him what the biggest thing was that made a difference in his life,” Slaughter said.
“He could have said ‘not sleeping in a station wagon’ or ‘having food and toys.’ Instead, his response was ‘I got to know Jesus.’”

Filed under: People Staff Reports

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