WARNER ROBINS -- At 2 a.m. Saturday, a volunteer from New Hope International took heaters out to the church’s parking lot for people already lining up for food.
By 7 a.m., other church and community volunteers -- 350-plus of them -- began arriving to open doors and greet people coming for the 2,100 boxes of Thanksgiving groceries that had been prepared to give away.
“We figure it’s enough food to feed about 10,000 to 12,000 people,” New Hope Pastor Jordan Poole said.
Poole said the church’s Feed the City program was begun by his father, New Hope International founder Bishop Jeff Poole, in 1997 when the church gave Thanksgiving meals to eight families.
Since then, he said, the church estimates more than 70,000 people have been fed, and Feed the City has grown from a church-only effort to a regional cause.
“It’s a little weird because this year is the first year my dad hasn’t been here for Feed the City,” Poole said. “This is the biggest year ever, and really it shows his leadership as well as all of our hearts to do what we can to reach out to others in Jesus’ name.”
Poole said his father is now planting a church in Port Saint Lucie, Fla.
“It’s just wonderful,” said Garbrielle Adams, of Fort Valley, who came with her daughter for food. “It’s the first time I’ve come to this and it’s such a joy being here. I thought it would be a big mess, but they have it so organized and it moves really quick. Plus, there are singers and speakers and spiritual dance. There’s a real spiritual feeling and a lot of thankfulness here already. Getting the food is going to help our budget big-time and we’ll be extra thankful when we sit down to eat. I’m coming back Sunday for their 9:30 (a.m.) service.”
Melanie Humphrey, of Warner Robins, was also thankful for the Thanksgiving groceries but for a different reason.
“I actually came for my friend,” she said. “Her daughter has liver cancer and she works a lot and I just thought I’d come get this to help them out. They’re going through a pretty rough time. I’m thankful (Feed the City) is doing this so I can help my friend.”
Not only did New Hope/Feed the City volunteers obtain, pack and then hand out the food, they also carried boxes and turkeys to people’s cars.
Among those helping carry groceries was Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms.
“So many times we talk about what needs doing in Warner Robins and around the country. Well, it’s just a pleasure to take part with people that are doing something that needs doing,” he said. “I know there are a lot of good things going on, but I don’t know of anything on this level. I’m really thankful for Pastor Poole and what this church is doing.”
Linda Thomas, Feed the City coordinator, said the groceries came from church and community donations, grants and area business and restaurant involvement. She said turkeys were provided by Walmart at a discount in addition to a number of extra turkeys the chain donated.
“We’re thankful people can come and not only get food but see they have value and are loved,” she said. “We’re not only giving away food but are trying our best to let people know how much we care about them and even more important, how much God cares for them.”