Townsend to perform at Winter Gala

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Christian comedienne Leslie Norris Townsend says she wants people to hear a message of hope in her performances.

Christian comedienne Leslie Norris Townsend will perform at the annual Winter Gala for Shining Light Recovery Home for Women. Special photo

“I do comedy for a living, so it’s always my duty to instruct people that all things are possible, and that no matter where you are in life, there’s hope and the ability for you to turn the page in your life,” she says. That’s what laughter is, basically. It’s being able to look adversity in the face and laugh – to see the positive instead of the negative.”

Townsend will be the featured speaker during Shining Light Recovery Home for Women’s second annual Winter Gala Benefit. It is scheduled for March 3 from 6:30-9:30 p.m., at the Locust Grove Event Center, 280 Mose Brown Road in Locust Grove. Tickets are on sale now for $75 each.

Townsend attended Berry College, funding her education by garnering a theater scholarship. She was also the first-runner up in the Miss Georgia pageant during the 1980s. Town-send’s resume includes appearances on The Tonight Show and Star Search, as well as the Women of Joy retreats for Christian women.

Townsend began performing as a teenager as a way to cope with a troubled family life, including her father’s alcoholism, losing her mother to cancer, and working to support her younger siblings. She says while her own story was nothing to laugh about, her goal in appearing at the benefit is to encourage women who seek to make positive changes in their lives.

“I lost my parents as a teenager, so I didn’t have all the bells and whistles in life,” says Townsend. “I didn’t know God, but He knew me. That’s basically why I’m coming [to the benefit], because these women have made some poor choices, but all is not lost because tomorrow is another day. It’s all about laughter healing the wounds of the past.”

She says through hard work and faith in God, she was able to overcome the challenges of her life by making people laugh.

Townsend is also scheduled for a meet-and-greet with attendees at the benefit. She added that she hopes her performance will inspire people to donate to Shining Light.

Shining Light is a faith-based facility that utilizes a year-long 12-step program to help women overcome drugs, alcohol and related addictions. The facility’s Executive Director, Teresa Bestwick, said she wants to bring more awareness to issues related to addiction locally.

“I personally know in the last six months, we’ve had several deaths in Henry County due to drug overdoses,” she said. “One girl that went to our Narcotics Anonymous meetings was found on a mattress dead in a trap house. That’s where everybody goes and does drugs.”

Bestwick added that Shining Light has had a positive impact, since its inception, in helping women turn their lives around. The facility, she said, has had a 72 percent success rate in reducing recidivism over the last five years.

The Winter Gala will feature a comedienne for the second straight year, which Bestwick said is by design.

“We feel strongly about laughter,” she said. “There is so much concern in our youth and this generation that we feel we need to bring people, churches, and families together. We are to have the joy of the lord. He is our strength and we, together, can save a life one bed at a time.”

For more information about the Winter Gala, call Vanessa Partee at 678-428-0477 or e-mail van