First Presbyterian Church of Savannah is recognized by local musicians as one of the premier music venues in the area. World-class vocalists performed at the site for the Savannah VOICE Experience Festival, and several groups have recorded CDs at the venue.

Pair the sound quality with a floor-to-ceiling pipe organ, and it seems like a no-brainer to host the new Music with a Mission concert series at the church.

Jeff Jones, director of music at First Presbyterian, will be the featured organist for the inaugural series that begins Sept. 29 at the church.

It is free and open to the public, and a love offering will take place. All proceeds will benefit a local charity.

Jones, who began working at the church in February, said he was surprised a concert series like this didn't already exist in Savannah.

"Other places do this, and I was surprised when I got to Savannah that no one was doing it - at least not from what I could see," Jones said.

"The church will open the doors to the public for free concerts, and each concert is paired with a local nonprofit.

"We are going to try to do four concerts each year. Savannah is so diverse, so we want to reach as many different groups as possible."

Jones said future music endeavors will be as diverse as the target charities and the Savannah community.

He anticipates a gospel concert, opera and hopefully, an orchestra and jazz series.

"Our goal is to bring in local, regional and national talent," Jones said. "When I got here, I noticed the church has a real sense of ministry for this community. They have a great vision for caring for this community, so it's logical to use music to support that.

"The church's investment in music and heart for the community is what brought me here," Jones said. "There are so many worthy organizations, we could do this for years and not get everyone, so we have a promising future if this works out for us."

Jones added the "concert is a variety of familiar and unfamiliar classics from the organ repertoire that is designed for audience enjoyment."

"It's going to be a very festive event. I'm very excited about it," he said. "I'm going to, as they say, pull out all the stops."

The money raised from the Sept. 29 concert will benefit Union Mission Inc.

"We are the inaugural concert and we are so excited about that, too," said Frances Carter, former president and CEO of Union Mission.

"First Presbyterian is very committed to helping the community, and they have been a supporter of Union Mission in the past. Their mission has always been to help others, especially women and children. We are so thankful to that continued relationship."

According to Carter, Union Mission has been in Savannah since 1936.

"It was originally established as a soup kitchen but has grown to encompass several programs geared to healing people in their homelessness," Carter said.

"We're not just focused on a roof over their head," Carter said. "It's more of a life skills change with counseling, help with employment, including training opportunities.

"We work holistically to combat whatever this client is facing that is causing their homelessness.

"Very seldom does anyone wake up and just find themselves homeless. Our goal is to eliminate barriers and empower them.

"It's a surprise to most people that any given day, we have about 5,000 homeless people in our community.

"It could be the person in the car next to you at the stop light - that might be where they are sleeping tonight.

"It's so much more than what most of the community sees."

Carter said she is looking forward to the concert.

"I know our clients will be honored beyond belief," she said.


What: Music with a Mission Concert benefiting Union Mission

When: 3 p.m. Sept. 29

Where: First Presbyterian Church, 520 Washington Ave.

Cost: Free, donations for Union Mission accepted

Info: 912-354-7615 or 912-236-7423