MATURE drops sponsorship of Win-A-Wedding contest

CONYERS - The local MATURE Project's Win-A-Wedding essay will continue under private sponsorship now that overseers of the federal grant funding the nonprofit organization ordered it to stop all affiliation with the event.

The Office of Family Assistance with the federal Department of Health and Human Services told directors of the abstinence awareness program at Rockdale Medical Center to disavow their association with the essay contest with a local wedding expo because it fell outside the scope the grant.

RMC spokeswoman Marsha Terry said MATURE's mission is to educate high school students on the importance of abstaining from sex until marriage. MATURE, which stands for Marriage Appreciation Training Uplifting Relationship Education, started in 2006 after RMC received a $2 million federal grant.

"The mission is on high school students, but it appeared this contest was not open to them," Terry said.

The Win-A-Wedding contest was limited to those 21 years old or older who wrote a 600-word essay or produced a five-minute video entitled, "Marriage of a Lifetime."

The contest winner will be announced during the Angelic Affairs East Metro Atlanta Bridal Show in Covington. The event will be held from 2 to 5 p.m., Sunday, in the conference center at DeKalb Technical College, located at 8100 Bob Williams Parkway in Covington.

The winning couple will receive services and products from vendors at the bridal expo valued at $10,000 to hold a wedding and reception for 200 guests.

Terry said the wedding show's vendors provided in-kind services and products to promote the event and the contest and no grant money was used.

Angelia Whitmire of Angelic Affairs, organizer of the bridal show, said they decided to continue the contest even though MATURE will not be affiliated.

"It's a program that really encourages young people to take one step at a time and that family matters," she said. "What they try to instill in the community is so great we felt obligated to take over and continue the contest."

The deadline for entries was Wednesday. MATURE Project Director Phillippia Faust said they had about 60 entries that she had to review.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com