The words “thank you” were not adequate to express the gratitude of the nearly 2,000 people who waited in long lines Thursday through three separate shifts at the National Guard Armory for a hot meal and bags of fresh produce, breads, meats and canned goods, plus shoes, clothes, furniture and toys during the first-ever Hinesville Feed the Hungry event.
Pastor Carl Gilliard, founder of Savannah Feed the Hungry, said he and his staff and the 125 volunteers from local churches and civic organizations only are interested in helping the hungry, not recognition for doing what they feel they’re called to do.
“Feed the Hungry is personal investment for me,” explained Gilliard, who lost a high-paying job several years ago and, as a result, lost his home and found himself struggling to feed his family. “The No. 1 issue in America today is not crime; it’s hunger. We decided to do this in Hinesville primarily because of phone calls we received at our Savannah facility from people asking for help. After talking with community and church leaders and getting together enough volunteers, we decided it was time to do this here.”
On Thursday, Gilliard said they gave away more than 4,000 pounds of meat, 3,200 pounds of produce, 4,100 bottles of soft drinks and 1,000 pounds of desserts, plus truckloads of shoes, clothing and other necessities. T-shirts worn by volunteers appropriately read, “Hunger knows no boundaries” and “Feed the world; make it a better place.”
Hannah Williams Donegan, first vice president of the Liberty County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said her organization helped sponsor the event. The NAACP contacted Gilliard’s ministry after receiving multiple phone calls from people asking for help after they had been turned down for assistance by other organizations.
“The people you’re seeing here are ‘working poor,’” she explained, noting that many Americans are underemployed and the income they make is barely enough to provide housing for their families. “I listened to so many people crying on the phone for help. We had to do something.”
Gilliard said many of the tables and chairs provided for the event were donated by Bethesda Church on Patriots Trail. Numerous other churches and organizations like the Hinesville Board of Realtors made donations or provided volunteer workers for the event. The food was provided by local markets.
Gilliard said he hopes his satellite ministry here in Hinesville will gain as much support as his Savannah ministry, which, he said, is supported by 2,000 other ministries representing all races and denominations. Noting that hunger doesn’t end with the holiday season, he plans to come back to Hinesville for a Feed the Hungry event every three months on the last Wednesday of that month.
In addition to the meal, food and clothing giveaways, Thursday’s event included music and cultural entertainment. Patt Gunn, Gilliard’s sister and volunteer coordinator, spoke to the diners — especially the children — about her West African heritage. Gifts and toys also were given to the children.
Gilliard expressed gratitude to his volunteers and the community for donating their time, talent and money to help those in need. Although his reward, he said, comes from a higher source.
The Biblical passage Matthew 25:35-40 says, “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in. … Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? ... And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
For information on volunteering for the next Hinesville Feed the Hungry event or to make a donation, go to www.savannahfeedthehungry.com or call 912-349-0774.