Cobb concert to benefit youth mentor

By John Blake, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/27/07

She gave back by teaching hundreds of kids about basketball and about life. Now, Cobb friends and neighbors want to give back to a Marietta mom.

Ellanda Najar, a single mother, lost everything last month when fire destroyed the apartment she shared with her three children. Friends will hold a benefit concert for her Sunday at 1 p.m. in East Cobb Park.

The concert will  start with a performance by the Marietta cover band, Flyer. The band will play classic rock and R&B. Donations for Najar's family will be accepted at the concert. All checks should be made payable to Mount Zion UMC.

"I'm overwhelmed. I feel so blessed," Najar said, after pausing to express herself. "I don't have the words ..."

Najar became an inspiration to hundreds of families after she became the youth basketball coordinator for the Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Marietta. The program, which included Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim children, grew from 200 kids to about 500 under her five-year watch.

Najar is an ex- college basketball player. Yet, friends said she made her greatest impact off the court.

"She was able to teach kids the fundamentals of life through basketball," said Richard Banks, one of the concert organizers. "She taught responsibility, hard work, discipline, but not in a mean way."

Najar works as a detention officer at the Roswell Police Department. Though she's been on the job only a month, she's already impressed her colleagues. They've provided gifts, money and items for her family.

"It's just about knowing what's important and staying strong and holding up no matter what happens to you," she said. "That's the message I'm giving to my children.  My upbringing was solid and taught me to handle anything- My children have followed my guidance and are so resilient," she said. "Each new day is a better day."