Photo by Heather Middleton
By Linda Looney-Bond
Hundreds of hungry and homeless people show up at First Baptist Church of Forest Park twice a month to receive a hot meal, as well a food for the soul, according to church organizers.
For the past two and a half years, the church has opened its doors to the community, every other Wednesday, for a church service, followed by a meal, according to Ron Dodson, an organizer and volunteer, who has been a member of the church more than 30 years.
Dodson, who was recently re-elected to the Georgia House of Representatives' State House District 75 seat, after spending some time out of office, said it is a blessing to participate in the ministry.
"The volunteers, they get as much of a blessing out of it as the people that are in need," said Dodson (D-Lake City).
On the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, January through October, the church holds an 11 a.m., worship service in its fellowship hall, followed by a meal that usually begins around noon, according to church pastor, Reed Crumbliss.
In November and December, however, the service and meal take place on the first and third Wednesday. "In our view, that's [the worship service] the primary thing," said Crumbliss.
Two-hundred, ninety-seven adults and approximately 50 children were served meals following the service on Nov. 18, by approximately 80 volunteers, according to Dodson.
The Thanksgiving meal included turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, rolls, and a variety of cakes and pies for dessert.
Following the meal, those in need also received a bag of groceries to take home, according to Dodson.
He said more than 200 people show up to receive a hot meal and bag of groceries biweekly, at the church, located at 634 Main Street in Forest Park.
"We can see an increase to some degree every week, and the need seems to be more, now, than when the economy was better," said Dodson.
"Anyone that has a need that comes through the door is welcome," he said. "Some are homeless, some are not. Some are just on hard times. Most of them do not have jobs."
The ministry receives food from a local community food bank, and also gets help with preparing and serving the meals from members of other churches, according to Dodson. He said, sometimes, the meal is provided by Chik-fil-A or other local restaurants.
"The volunteers, they're real nice. They make you feel real welcome," said Maxine Okafor, 48, of Forest Park. "I really like the fellowship, because I'm not working," she said.
"I've been coming out here, off and on, for four or five years," said Keith Anderson, 50, of Forest Park. "I work at night ... security for a gated subdivision in Riverdale," he said.
Anderson said he also works a second, part-time job, cleaning at a local store. He said the ministry helps him make ends meet, and provides an opportunity to worship. "I don't really go to church. You get to hear the word, and I usually get something to eat while I'm here," he said.
For more information about the ministry, or to donate, or volunteer, contact the church at (404) 366-6333.