When Andy Gazak watched the devastation from Hurricane Katrina on television in 2005, he wanted to help.
He knew his skills weren't in rebuilding or rescuing. But the news coverage was relentless, and he said it "pushed me in a certain direction."
"God was trying to say something," Gazak said. "I felt like I was being led down a path of doing what you can do with what you have. Everybody has talents they can use to make a difference in lives and in the world."
Gazak has worked as a musician for decades, including as one of the original PTL singers in Jim and Tammy Bakker's ministry. He's toured as a solo artist and performed in many musical productions.
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"I needed to probably do what I have some experience in doing rather than fix houses in New Orleans," Gazak said.
He gathered friends and fellow artists in the greater Cabarrus area, and they put on a Christian stage production. They contributed the profits to the Red Cross and Samaritan's Purse.
"It was really supposed to be a one-time thing, but we felt there was some need and momentum, and this was a viable route," Gazak said.
So he founded Community Impact Productions, a Concord-based nonprofit Christian organization that has produced a number of shows in the past 41/2 years. A percentage of the proceeds always goes to help others.
Everyone who participates is a volunteer, including Gazak. They've put on large-scale dramatic musical productions, patriotic celebrations, 9-11 tributes and, most recently, variety shows that have featured a mandolin player, a Christian comedian and dancers.
CIP raises money through ticket sales and donations, and a portion always goes to the Cooperative Christian Ministry, a poverty-fighting agency in Concord.
Gazak hopes CIP will continue to grow, allowing it to give more money to Christian groups that help others and to provide an outlet for artists in the community.
"There are a lot of gifts out there in folks, but they don't always have opportunity," Gazak said. "This is an area-wide organization. We want people to have the opportunity to come in and do their thing."
That can mean singing, acting, making costumes, building sets, doing clerical work, writing grants or helping run the business.
Volunteers from more than 35 area churches have participated in CIP productions, and Gazak is always looking for more people to participate.
CIP will put on "An Evening of Joy" variety shows in June and October, including a meal and 90 minutes of entertainment. It also is planning a stage production and a golf outing fundraiser, which will be May 8.
"We share the gospel in all that we do," Gazak said. "We allow opportunities for people to exercise their talents, gifts and abilities. I'm believing and hoping that as we continue to grow, we can then expand and go further."