Despite the threat of rain and dropping temperatures, more than 200 people participated in the first-ever Good Friday Walk for Shelter.
“When I got up Friday morning and saw the clouds out there, I said ‘Lord, just hold off — we’re doing this for a good cause,’” said Jim McIntosh, who coordinated the event.
Participants walked five miles from Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church to St. Philip’s Episcopal Church to raise funds for area agencies that help combat hunger and homelessness.
Funds will go to the Liberty County Homeless Coalition, which will distribute money to agencies such as Manna House, the Kirk Healing Center and more on an application basis, according to Deacon Chad Chaffee, the event chairman.
On Monday, McIntosh said participants and supporters had pledged $6,400 as of Friday, but that more pledge packets needed to be collected.
Chaffee said that McIntosh introduced the idea for the event with inspiration from a Massachusetts town — and that it was scheduled symbolically for Good Friday.
“The gentleman who started this 33 years ago basically felt that Good Friday was so symbolic of going out and doing something for somebody else … he says, “Well, you know, Jesus walked for us, why can’t we walk for him?’” McIntosh said. The late Raymond Bastille launched the 10.5-mile Beverly, Mass., walk that inspired McIntosh.
Kirk Healing Center program director Charli Shearer, who is a coalition board member, said her private, nonprofit organization receives more requests for aid than its capacity.
“In three years, we’ve been able to help 60 people, and we’ve had to say no almost as often,” Shearer said.
The healing center offers transition housing, meals, counseling and assistance for jobs and transportation to homeless people on a referral basis.
The center, which operates a house with males and a house with females, is not alone.
Last year, Hinesville Homeless Prevention Program coordinator Daisy Jones reported that more people were seeking assistance, but she said that the area tends to be affected by situational homelessness.
One walker, Hinesville resident Ralph Carmichael, said he was eager to walk in support of the cause.
“Anything that I can do to help people who are less fortunate, then I think that I should do it,” Carmichael said as the walk began.
“I walk daily, anyway, I walk three miles every day — so today I’ll just add two to it,” he added.
The first participants made it to their destination in about 45 minutes, McIntosh said. The last walkers were done in about an hour and 40 minutes.
Coalition chairman Pastor Hermon Scott, who offered remarks before the event, said he was grateful to all of the people who came together to make the event possible.
The men each expressed their gratitude for participating churches and organizations; the participants who raised funds; and the Hinesville Police Department, which ensured a safe event.
“This is a historic day,” Scott said. “And we’re going to help a lot of homeless and hungry people as a result.”