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Posted: Thursday, November 28th 2013 at 7:10pm

Volunteers at Good News savor the day

By Marc Eggers Staff
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Thomas Ramirez welcomes Thanksgiving crowd
GAINESVILLE An estimated 300 volunteers showed up at Good News at Noon on Thanksgiving Day to offer their help serving the annual dinner of turkey, dressing, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, but only 150 meals were served, according to kitchen coordinator Mike Robinson.

That seems disproportionate by most standards twice as many serving as being served but to Thomas Ramirez, longtime director of the Davis Street shelter, it clearly shows the support that the homeless ministry enjoys from the community.

"To us at Good News at Noon," Ramirez said, "we are grateful to give thanks to the Lord all year 'round. To us it is a way of living. Thanksgiving never stops."

Started over a quarter century ago by Gene Beckstein, the annual Thanksgiving feast has seen a strong increase in the number of people who show up to help each 4th Thursday in November to offer their help.

On the other hand, the number of clients partaking of the meal has held steady as other service organizations in the area have started offering additional sites for Thanksgiving dinner.

About a decade ago the number of those wanting to help began to exceed the need.

"We don't turn away those needing help," Beckstein once said, "and we'll never turn away those wanting to help."

So to solve the logistical "problem" of too many helpers on Thanksgiving Day the suggestion was made to use the overage to accomplish some of the unfulfilled tasks that have accumulated through the year.

This years' objective was clear: organize the mountain of donated clothing that had amassed in the warehouse, and use the space being made available in the warehouse to organize canned goods.

"Aren't you so thankful that the sun is shining, it's not sleeting and snowing," effervescent volunteer leader Debbie Parker said. "so we just pulled some tables out...in the beautiful sunshine...and are sorting clothes."

Within minutes over 100 people were in the courtyard dividing the clothes by gender, size, and season. Others were busy in the warehouse organizing the haphazard bounty of canned goods that overflowed from sundry boxes and bags.

"This is the true Gospel in Gainesville, Georgia, right here. Needs are met," Good News Board Chairman John Lilly said as he watched the assiduous volunteers laughing and chatting as they worked.

Charitable synergy has profound effect. The hungry were being feed, the thankful volunteers were able to express their gratitude by laboring for a good cause, and children were being shown first-hand that it truly is better to give than to receive.

Maddie Sokol is a freshman at Flowery Branch High School. She had come to Good News with her family and several friends to help. Admittedly unsure of what to expect volunteering at a homeless shelter, Maddie thought she might be serving meals. To her surprise she was folding and stacking clothes.

"I can't do it. It's bad." Maddie said with a robust laugh when asked if folding clothes was something she did at home. But today, "I'm here to serve the community. I think it's good to help others."

"I'm here with my mom, and honestly, we kinda have too much, so it's good to give back to people who don't," 22-year-old Bryan O'Reilly, also of Flowery Branch, said from behind a stack of men's shirts. "It's heart warming."

Music emanated from the dining hall as a hearty traditional Thanksgiving country meal was being served, but harmony cantillated from the legion of volunteers saying "Thanks" as they happily sorted cloths and stacked canned goods.

Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News

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