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Metro’s Best – Worship & Community

115. Best Place to Worship
117. Best Contemporary Music

Stevens Creek Church
At Stevens Creek Church, life’s distractions immediately take a back seat and visitors are encouraged to experience new spiritual insights through uplifting worship. It is more than a building. Stevens Creek Church is made up of people who come together to learn more about who God is and how to realize their full potential through a personal and vital relationship with Jesus Christ. Pastor Marty Baker and his congregation provides sound biblical instruction, promotes daily application of God’s Word and fosters the building of close relationships through love and acceptance.

Visit stevenscreekchurch.com.

116. Best Traditional Church Service

Warren Baptist Church
Warren Baptist Church prides itself on being a community of believers surrendered to the authority of Jesus Christ and dedicated to advancing the gospel together in their neighborhoods and around the world as its members make disciples and multiply disciple-makers.

Visit warrenbaptist.org.

118. Best Local Nonprofit

SafeHomes of Augusta
SafeHomes of Augusta is a local non-profit formed by women to help victims of domestic violence. Their shelter for women displaced by violence in the home has helped thousands of women and children escape life-threatening situations and transition to a better life. The organization now helps more than 2,000 people — men and women — and their families each year. And while they still operate their emergency shelter, SafeHomes also provides essential aid to non-residential victims of domestic violence through their outreach and advocacy programs. To volunteer, donate, or support their programs, go to their website.

Visit safehomesdv.org.

119. Best Politician

Congressman Rick Allen

119-Rick_Allen_Official_Photo,_114th_CongressKnown for the campaign slogan, “It’s Time To Shake Up Washington,” Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Allen has spent this past year demanding that is time to force Congress to make budget cuts and turn this country around.

“Spending that far outstrips income. No concern for mounting debt. Claiming that increasing this debt constitutes ‘responsible handling,’” Allen wrote in a recent press release. “You wouldn’t spend your money like the government spends your money. That’s one of the reasons I ran for Congress in the first place — I believe that the federal government needs to cut spending.”

He insists that “wasteful spending” is the federal government’s middle name and Washington needs to be forced to “tighten its belt.”

“Washington does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem,” Allen stated in the press release. “The spending-addicted politicians in Washington are doing nothing to solve it.”

While tougher gun laws have been discussed in recent days, Allen is determined to make sure no one messes with this country’s Second Amendment right.

“The ‘Right to Bear Arms’ is one of the most fundamental and important rights in the Constitution and needs to be protected,” he stated in a press release. “As a lifelong member of the NRA, I cherish this right and will fight each and every day to protect and uphold the 2nd Amendment.”

Immigration is also a hot topic currently on the national scene and Allen believes it is the perfect example of Washington’s failure to solve the major problems facing our nation. “For the last few decades, politicians have debated the problem of illegal immigrants, yet our borders remain vulnerable,” he wrote. “We must immediately secure the border, enforce the laws we currently have on the books and block any solution that includes amnesty for illegals.”

Allen also believes that this country must do more to support its troops overseas and at home.

“America has the greatest military in world history and I believe we must do everything possible to make sure this continues,” he wrote. “We must provide our troops with the necessary funding to do their jobs and protect the lives of our citizens and allies.”

Everyone knows how important the agricultural industry is to the state of Georgia. Allen insists he will look out for the best interests of farmers throughout the Peach State.

“Agriculture is the number one industry in Georgia and is vital to ensuring our country has a safe food source,” he wrote. “I will fight to ensure that the Farm Bill brought before Congress is responsible and fair. As the son of a farmer, I will fight to ensure our farmers have a voice in Washington and aren’t constrained by big government and countless regulations. “

What’s his plan regarding education?

“For too long, the federal government has employed a ‘one size fits all’ approach to education in America,” Allen says. “I believe that decisions involving the education of our children should be made by parents and officials on the local level — not bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.. I will fight to restore as much local control as possible so that parents — not Washington politicians — are deciding the future of our children.”

Regarding the nation’s healthcare, Allen says he is disgusted by the impact of Obamacare.

“In 2010, the Democrats in Congress rammed through Obamacare, hurting our senior citizens by slashing billions from Medicare, decreasing the quality of healthcare and, most disturbingly, putting Washington bureaucrats between patients and doctors,” Allen wrote. “It’s the wrong approach to healthcare and it needs to be stopped.”

Visit rickwallen.com.

120. Most Inspiring Community Leader

Former Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver

120-1When he was mayor, Deke Copenhaver was often called the Boy King. The Boy King, however, often acted more like a Boy Scout.

“I’ve never been a typical politician,” Copenhaver told the Metro Spirit shortly before leaving office in 2015. “To be able to constantly interact with the citizens I serve has been a huge blessing. If I had to be around the politics all the time, I couldn’t take it. But one thing I’ve shared with people — when you’re sitting in the steam room at the Y, you’re on equal ground with everybody.”

Copenhaver served two terms of his own and the unfinished term of Bob Young, who left in 2005 to serve as a Housing and Urban Development regional director in the George W. Bush administration.

And even though he’s been out of the public spotlight for almost a year, Metro Spirit readers still consider him the most inspiring community leader we’ve got. That’s a great compliment to the former mayor as much as it is a pointed indictment of our current elected officials.

For many, it seemed like Copenhaver had been in office forever when he left last yea. Yet in 2004 he was just a guy going through Leadership Georgia. On Leadership Georgia graduation weekend, Augusta had its third current or former elected official go under indictment, and when he got off the bus in Thomasville, a friend of his, someone who was on the board of Leadership Georgia, asked him what Augustans were putting in the water.

Comments like that always got under Copenhaver’s skin, but something about this time really hit a nerve.

“I had several mayors who were in my class, and we sat around that evening talking, and I told them that if the rumors were true that Mayor Young was going to leave to take another position, I was going to run for it,” he says. “And people thought I was joking, but I’m extremely competitive, and to hear other people constantly talking bad about the place I lived made me feel like I needed to do something about it.”

He ran, and he intended to win.

The first letter of support to the daily paper, he says, was from former congressman Doug Barnard, who told him later that, after he wrote the letter, there were people who told him Copenhaver wouldn’t get six percent of the vote.

Eventually, he came in second to Willie Mays in a four-way race that went to a runoff, where he beat Mays with 56 percent of the vote.

A year later, he won with nearly 66 percent of the vote and in 2010 he cruised to victory with 64 percent in one of the more unorthodox campaigns you’re ever likely to see.

“When I ran in 2010 and asked people to give money to charity and not to my campaign — that flies in the face of conventional political wisdom,” he says. “We only did yard signs, and I ran a city-wide campaign in a city the size of Augusta on, like, $5,000. But I felt like after five years in office, if people don’t know me now…”

Copenhaver remained popular while in office in spite of the public’s continuing frustration with the politics of the commission and the impotence of anyone who holds the office of mayor. After all, the mayor only gets a vote in the case of a tie, so, at most, that office is a public relations position. That, however, is what Copenhaver has always been good at.

Copenhaver was one of the first politicians to see the value of social media, and one of the first to get burned by it as well. In 2008, the Metro Spirit published an unflattering story about his use of Facebook.

“I saw Facebook as a great way to get information out to my constituents, but you realize that there’s a flip side to that as well,” he says. “So I got off Facebook, and now I use Twitter, which seems to be a little cleaner and easier. But I spoke to a class about this for the Georgia Municipal Association. There’s going to be an expectation while you’re in office that you’re going to have some kind of online footprint, so figure out what you’re going to use, but also be aware that there is a flip side to it.”

Copenhaver has always been matter of fact when it comes to bad publicity, understanding that it comes with the territory of being in public office. That understanding has endeared him to the local press. And though he comes from money, he gives off this everyman vibe that few can resist.

Even when he’s swimming 1.2 miles, cycling 56 miles and running 13.1 miles, as he did a few weekends ago at the Ironman 70.3 Augusta, people feel connected enough to him to shout his first name from the sidelines.

And more than encouraging him to finish his race, they seem to be saying, “We miss you, Deke. Come back!”