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Athens Downtown Ministries launches youth golf program

Maddie Rogers Nov 15, 2022 

Athens Downtown Ministries launches youth golf program

For almost two decades, Downtown Ministries, a local Christian nonprofit, has been using their resources to pour into the lives of kids of all ages and walks of life. In late October, the organization kicked off their renewed golf department with an event for kids to get one-on-one coaching from experienced golfer Winston Gibbs, a realtor at Exit Realty Lake Country.

Downtown Ministries is home to three main divisions of outreach. They foster growth in the community through their school, Downtown Academy, community programs through Downtown Life, including their kitchen, Our Daily Bread, and their Downtown Falcons sports teams.

Golf has been a part of their program since 2016. Since then, the organization has gained new inspiration in their mission to bring diverse experiences to the youth of Athens. Gibbs partnered with the ministry’s golf programming to revamp the experience for kids.

Realtor and experienced golfer Winston Gibbs (far left) and Downtown Ministries director of development, Cary Rivers (second from right), pose with kids involved in Downtown Ministries’ relaunched golf program. (Courtesy/Downtown Ministries)

Gibbs attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and served as the team captain for the varsity golf team. He also attended Shorter University, where he was on the varsity golf team.

Gibbs’s journey began two years ago after he noticed the shortage of youth in golf. “It’s all about exposure,” Gibbs said about what directed him in his mission.

Soon after, he began his own charity, Winning Fore the Kids, and hosted a golf event that raised $10,000 and was matched by Exit Realty’s charitable fund for a total of $20,000.

Trying to find a way to distribute this money, Gibbs reached out to Jesse Pilkenton, director of organizational development and culture at Downtown Ministries. Pilkenton was thrilled when their partnership seemed to be a fit.

“The goal of Downtown Ministries is to partner with our community to prepare the next generation of leaders on and off the field,” Pilkenton said when asked why partnering with Gibbs was a priority for Downtown Ministries.

After much planning, on Oct. 18, A&F Golf Driving Range provided the space and tools for participating kids to have a fun, hands-on experience.

On the course, Gibbs and Cary Rivers, director of development at Downtown Ministries, coached the kids on basic skills and safety, but most importantly on how to have fun.

“The lessons you take from the golf course are applicable to life. In golf, you have to be careful who you surround yourself with, much like in life,” Gibbs said.

Many smiles and giggles were shared before the group headed to the last stop: Dairy Queen. When arriving home, parents were waiting with just as much excitement as their children for their new experience.

Looking towards the future, both Gibbs and those at Downtown Ministries look forward to holding many events to encourage the younger generation to become proud leaders in their community.

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