Community leaders, clergy members, Fort Stewart officials and Liberty County residents filed into the cushioned pews at Hinesville’s Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday evening where Major Jim Thomas hosted the city’s eighth annual Mayor’s Thanksgiving Service.
The event’s theme, “A thankful heart is a giving heart,” set the tone for the service as more than a dozen area clergymen and women offered words and songs of thanks in exchange for donations, which will go to city and county homelessness prevention programs.
“We are a community of many wants and many needs and hopefully by being here tonight, we will honor those who are less fortunate,” Thomas said during his speech. “When it comes to giving thanks, we are one. We are one in the body of Christ … whether we choose to acknowledge it or not,” he said. “Lord, draw us on one accord, build up this community and bless your people.”
Daisy Jones, the city’s newly appointed homeless prevention program coordinator, emceed the program and welcomed attendees. She introduced County Commission Chairman John McIver, who read from 1 Corinthians 12:21: “The body is not one member, but many,” said McIver, “If one member is weaker, this does not mean that member is not necessary. If one member is honored … all members are honored.”
About 100 attendees of different races, denominations and backgrounds held hands and swayed side-to-side to the sounds of the Liberty County Area Mass Choir, the Voices of Zion and the Fort Stewart Multi-Cultural Choir.
The sound of clapping hands and shouts of “hallelujah” filled the sanctuary while the choirs sang and the invited pastors spoke words of peace, words for the nation and words for the military.
“I know some of you are going to find this hard to believe,” said Pastor Rich Wright of Hinesville First United Methodist Church, “but one of my favorite shows used to be Soul Train. At the end of every show, Don Cornelius used to say those famous words … peace, love and soul. Well, Don had it right. We just didn’t listen to him.
“Jesus Christ gave us peace inwardly so we can express peace outwardly, and so that we can express peace upwardly,” he said. “The challenge for us is to let love and peace live in our hearts, so that we can go out into the world and show the world that Jesus is love.”
Wright’s words seemed to resonate with the audience.
According to event coordinator Herman Scott, president of the Liberty County Homeless Coalition, Inc. and pastor of Baconton Missionary Baptist Church, the service raised nearly $2,000.
“I am very pleased and thankful for the turnout and the amount collected,” he said. “However, the need is still great. We have only scratched the surface of the needs of the four organizations we’re contributing to. We continue to ask the community to donate to local charities that are going to be blessing the people of Liberty County.”
Proceeds from the service will be divided among the Liberty Homeless Coalition, Inc., the Kirk Healing Center, the Manna House and Operation Helping Hands, Scott said.
According to the Georgia Coalition to End Homelessness’ 2009 Report on Homelessness, Liberty County had 142 homeless residents accounted for based on the 2008 and 2009 Continuum of Care Housing Inventories and 2009 Homeless Count and Predictive Model.