For the city of Hinesville and its residents, this has been a year of change. Depending on who you ask, change has been good or it has been bad. However, during the 16th Annual Mayor’s Thanksgiving Service on Nov. 18, 132 community members gathered at Cathedral of Praise Church to celebrate new beginnings.
“Today, we are here together to pray and ask God to direct our paths,” said Bishop Kevin L. Betton, pastor of Cathedral of Praise. Betton welcomed attendees to his church and advised they replace worry with prayer and thanksgiving as the community embarks on a new year.
Each year the Mayor’s Thanksgiving program is organized as a collaboration between the City of Hinesville Mayor’s Office and the Liberty County United Ministerial Alliance. Elected officials, clergy and citizens come together annually for the service of thanks for the community, military and nation and giving to United Way of Liberty County.
This year, a new element was added when Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown was introduced by the Mayor of Second Grade at First Presbyterian Academy, Jackson Dotterer. Dotterer told the audience he enjoyed being selected by his peers to serve as their mayor and learning more about all the things that a mayor does. He said he loves Hinesville and his favorite place in the city is Bryant Commons where he goes with his family to fish and visit the dog park.
Brown reassured Dotterer that he was doing a great job as second grade mayor of FPCA and was glad that they enjoyed some of the same things about the community. To the audience, Brown shared that Thanksgiving is his favorite time of year because he gets to gather with his extended family on Thanksgiving Day as well as fellow leaders for the annual program to reflect on the year as it ends.
“We chose the theme ‘New Beginnings’ this year because of the all the new staff and many new projects at the city this year,” Brown said before recognizing new staff members and elected officials in the audience. “Progress requires change. It’s not easy, but we became better because of it,” he said.
After the introductions, the service continued with a series of songs, prayers and words of thanks to representing the community, military, nation and thanksgiving.
For the community, Richard Hayes, pastor of New Day Community Church paused in memory of community servants Dale Thornton, Glenn Howard and Charles Frasier. All three men passed away this year after spending decades serving others.
“They served us well. Let us remember them as we pray and give thanks for our community,” Hayes said.
Dr. Tony Caldwell gave words of prayer for the community. Liberty County Chairman Donald Lovette gave thanks for projects completed because of unity in the community. Some of the notable mentions included progress towards countywide fire and emergency services 24 hours per day, seven days per week; emergency management efforts during hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Michael; upcoming openings of IHOP in Hinesville and Burger King in Midway; development at Trade Port; completion of the Commercial Truck Driving Range at Savannah Technical College Liberty Campus and mailing of tax bills before Christmas.
“Our past has been good, but we look forward to the future,” Lovette said.
In honor of the relationship Liberty County has with Fort Stewart, CSM Rebecca Myers, Fort Stewart Garrison Command Sergeant Major, spoke about how families are the force behind the Army. She also gave thanks to the community on behalf of the 30,000 military families in the Coastal Empire that she says are “safe and well cared for on and off the installation.” She reminded everyone that the soldiers are better able to complete their mission knowing that their family members are being taken care of by the community.
The next segment of the program was dedicated to the nation. Debbie Neal, pastor of St. Peter’s AME Church prayed for unity, peace, harmony, reconciliation, and social justice calling the audience to “rise up” privately and publicly.
A prayer of thanksgiving was given by Pastor Carmen Mendez of the Power Belongs to God Church and Richard Hayes II, a student at Midway Middle School, read a scripture of thanks.
Herman Scott, pastor of Baconton Missionary Baptist Church, gave the final words of thanks by sharing his formula for a new beginning with the audience – using personal experience to inspire change, taking positive action to be the solution to a problem and praising God persistently.
Also during the program, $965.95 was raised for the United Way of Liberty County, an organization that Director Jennifer Darsey says identifies the “overlooked and underserved” in Liberty County. The donation will help fund programs like the food vouchers for soldiers totaling $37,000 in 2018 and 500 students fed by the Backpack for Buddies Program.
First Lady Juanzetta Knox closed the program with a final word of prayer.