By Jason A. Smith
Local families in need were treated to a dose of early holiday spirit, as churches joined forces recently, to feed the hungry in the community.
Six Henry County locations provided Thanksgiving meals for the needy and homeless on Saturday. The locations included Hampton First Baptist Church, Stockbridge First Methodist Church, the Patrick Henry High School cafeteria in Stockbridge, and McDonough churches, Sharon Baptist Church, Oakland Baptist Church, and McDonough Presbyterian Church.
Rebecca Arayan, a member of Stockbridge First United Methodist, served as a coordinator for the inaugural event. She said 2,100 meals were prepared, in anticipation of the holiday diners.
More than 700 meals were donated to guests at the various outlets. Items which were left over, Arayan said, were used for outreach purposes in the community.
"All the food got to people in need, whether they came to us, or we took it to them," she said.
The occasion was funded by local businesses, and had support from many volunteers. "There was such an outreach of people wanting to volunteer," said Arayan. "We unfortunately had to turn [volunteers] away, at the end."
Mike Smith, the pastor of Oakland Baptist Church, said members of his congregation distributed 252 meals to charitable organizations and social services in Henry, during the campaign.
"We feel that it is important to reach out to those in our community, beyond our four walls, and minister to those in need with a message of love and hope," the pastor said.
He added that 230 registered volunteers, including representatives from eight other churches, came to Oakland Baptist, to participate in the endeavor. They were the Avalon Church, Cornerstone Bible Church, Liberty Hill Baptist Church, and Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, all in McDonough; The Anchor Church, Luella Baptist Church, and First Baptist Church, all of Locust Grove; and Christ Community Church in Jackson, according to Smith.
"It was very much a joint effort by churches, organizations and businesses in our community," he continued.
Chris Wang, pastor of student worship at Sharon Baptist Church, said the event united those who came to volunteer. They provided meals, baby food, formula, diapers, canned and boxed food, he said. "We just happen to be under the umbrella of Christ and the church, but more importantly, under the umbrella of loving others," he added.
Members of Sharon Baptist took food to senior citizens' homes, and to people with transportation problems, said Wang.
"It's the first time we were able to do such an event on a large scale," said Wang. "It worked out that it was at Thanksgiving, but we were able to fulfill a need in our community, regardless of the holiday."