When representatives of another church first approached the Rev. Ronald Terry about holding a food and clothing giveaway, he wasn’t sure what to expect.
But the pastor of New Fellowship Baptist Church sat down with some of his members, as well as with the Rev. Jimmy Towson and others at Forest Hills United Methodist Church, who had come up with the idea of raising money to buy food and give away donated clothing items, hygiene kits, haircuts and other necessities to families in need.
“They turned out to be very authentic,” Terry said. “Their motives were good and pure.”
As the national economy continues to wobble, the number of families in need in Macon hasn’t gone down since that first event in January. That has prompted the two churches to schedule another food giveaway Saturday morning at each church.
“It was just God’s vision,” Towson said. “We’re taking a trailer, filling it with food and giving it away -- no strings attached.”
Towson said that after members of Forest Hills first approached him with the idea, they handed out small piggy banks to raise money.
Within two weeks, the congregation had raised $28,000.
They had raised so much money, in fact, that the Forest Hills community reached out to Terry’s church as well as Unionville Missionary Baptist Church to help give out the donated items.
Though Saturday’s event will include just New Fellowship Baptist and Forest Hills Methodist, Towson said the two churches expect to give out about 750 food boxes apiece -- enough to feed 1,500 Bibb County families for a week.
“We served over 1,500 the last time,” he said. “I hope that many show up.”
Kathryn McAteer, a Forest Hills member, was at the church Thursday afternoon with her 6-year-old daughter, Kate, and her 5-year-old son, Hunt, to load small wagons of dog and cat food that also will be given out Saturday.
McAteer said she works as a home health care professional and frequently sees families in need.
“It’s pretty desperate right now,” she said. “A lot of my patients are trying to feed grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. One free meal can make a big difference for a family right now. ... A lot of them have rising medical bills or have lost their jobs. The need is there. If we could do this every weekend, I would.”
Towson said Patti Jones, past president of the Central Georgia Cares animal group, helped get thousands of dollars worth of pet food donated for Saturday, and that Macon canine celebrity AC Pup will make an appearance.
“If people can’t afford to buy groceries, they can’t afford to feed their pets,” Towson said.
As her children toted their wagons of pet food out to a trailer where it will be stored, McAteer said she’s happy they are able to participate and are learning a lesson about helping the less fortunate.
“It’s made the kids more aware of what they do have and be grateful for it,” she said. “It’s one of the best lessons for a 5-year-old and 6-year-old.”
About 100 members of Forest Hills have signed up to help with the giveaway, and another 50 from Terry’s church plan to volunteer. Towson said the churches wanted to have the giveaway right around the time when school started in Bibb County, when families have extra expenses of school supplies and new clothes for their children.
Besides the food and clothing giveaways, Forest Hills also will help those in need get haircuts and offer medical screenings. Also, members of both congregations will be fixing up a house in their respective neighborhoods.
Terry and Towson said the churches had a combined service at Forest Hills United Methodist in January, during which Terry preached, and Towson will do the same on Sunday when his congregations visits New Fellowship Baptist. Both choirs will perform during the service.
“It’s unique, especially since they’re a Baptist church and we’re a Methodist church,” Towson said. “Baptists and Methodists coming together -- that’s kind of cool.”