Nearly 100 elected officials, community leaders and citizens gathered at Hinesville First United Methodist Church for the 14th Annual Mayor’s Thanksgiving Program on Nov. 20.
Each year, the Hinesville mayor partners with the United Ministerial Alliance of Liberty County to organize a service of songs, prayers and thanksgiving. The theme for this year was "Rising from the Storm." Throughout the service, participants shared stories of the resiliency demonstrated during Hurricane Matthew and gave thanks for the faith and goodwill of the community.
Mayor Allen Brown began by welcoming everyone and thanking them for being part of the city’s tradition. He said it reminded him of how his family comes together during Thanksgiving to fellowship. He then shared how the theme was fitting considering the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in October.
"As I drove around Hinesville with the city manager, Billy Edwards, immediately after the storm, I went out looking for the worst," Brown said. "Our city was battered, but the way I saw people rise to the occasion and do good things to help each other was touching. It reminded me that good things can happen in bad situations."
Other speakers and singers were present to give tribute to the city, county, military and nation.
State Representative Al Williams, Chairman of the Liberty County Board of Commissioners Donald Lovette and Commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team Col. James Dooghan attested to what Mayor Brown said. They commended the citizens, military and municipalities for working together and demonstrating a heart of thanksgiving throughout the year.
Jennifer Darsey, director of the United Way of the Coastal Empire Liberty County branch, told the audience that she witnesses it every day. Her office relies on community support to help people rise and put their lives back together through life storms such as food shortages, homelessness and tragedy. Darsey said when her staff returned to work after Hurricane Matthew, a line of people were wrapped around the building. There weren’t enough resources to help everyone, but after joining with other agencies and counties, they were able to assist 1,147 people in 48 hours.
She then asked everyone to donate generously to the offering that would be given to the local United Way office. A total of $1,080 was raised. All funds will be used in Liberty County.
Area pastors also provided prayers of thanks, peace and comfort. Timothy Byler, pastor of Connection Church told the audience that he was grateful for his family called Liberty.
"All of you serve in one way or another as citizens of this community," Byler said. "When we walk through a storm, we walk through it together. Continue to focus on our blessings and ask yourself how can you help others rise from the storm."