Savannah Feed the Hungry made an encore visit to Liberty County on Saturday and the charitable food distribution organization brought along a special guest: Naomi Barber King, sister-in-law of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Savannah Feed the Hungry founder Pastor Carl Gilliard and a dedicated team of volunteers first visited Hinesville in December, when they fed more than 1,500 area residents at the National Guard Armory and distributed clothes and extra food for recipients to take home. During the weeks and days leading up the group’s Saturday event, Gilliard and his crew worked hard to spread the word in hopes drawing another sizeable crowd. It worked. Savannah Feed the Hungry served meals to 722 Liberty County residents Saturday afternoon at the armory.
Although the Christmastime event attracted more people, Gilliard said he was pleased with Saturday’s attendance.
“On average, on a consistent, month-to-month basis, we’ll serve about 500 at an event,” Gilliard said. “The Thanksgiving and Christmas crowds are always going to be tremendous because those events are right before the holidays.”
The group’s founder already is planning more visits to Liberty County, the next of which is slated for March 24, and he expects turnouts to continue to increase.
“It was tremendous. We’re getting good, solid, committed volunteers, and people are getting used to the way we do things in terms of the hot meals, produce, etc.,” Gilliard said. “It’s growing, and I think we’re going to get there.”
After they’d eaten, many attendees stuck around to listen to King, who spoke to the crowd and told a couple stories about her brother-in-law and his work during the civil rights era. When she finished speaking, she took questions from the crowd, including a tough one.
One audience member asked whether King had been present when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. She was not, but her husband, who was staying at the same motel as the legendary activist, was nearby.
“I learned about it through TV, just like a lot of other people, and it just broke my heart,” King said.
She praised Savannah Feed the Hungry for its work with underprivileged residents and expressed gratitude at her inclusion in Saturday’s event.
“I’m just thrilled and happy to be here and see the work of Savannah Feed the Hungry because we have so many homeless and disadvantaged people who have nowhere to go, no one who loves and cares for them. So this is nice just to be at this event today, where they can receive food, clothes, joy and love,” King said.
Attendee Ruby Miller, a Midway resident who said she heard about the meal and distribution from her cousin, also dropped by the December event and was happy to see the volunteer organization return to Hinesville.
“It’s, you know, nice that they’re doing this in different communities — not only Savannah,” she said. “And the food is good.”
Before the program started, volunteers loaded tables with food and prepared to tend to the hungry crowd. Allenhurst resident Helen Anderson folded and stacked T-shirts as other helpers unloaded cases of drinks, arranged chairs and tackled countless chores. Anderson said she heard about the event from a fellow congregant at Good Shepherd Missionary
Church in Allenhurst and didn’t hesitate to offer her services.
“I’m doing the food and whatever I can to help. I think it’s awesome because we need more with the crisis we’re in now. Everything is cutting back, from food lines to jobs. So we need something like Savannah Feed the Hungry,” Anderson said. “This is a great mission for our county and we thank God for the people from Savannah.”