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Inspirational meal
Group serves hope, warm meal to hundreds in need

SNELLVILLE - Hope is an especially beautiful thing when it comes as the result of others showing compassion, love and understanding.

And that's what the volunteers who came out Christmas morning to the Hope and Life Fellowship located on Centerville Highway exuded - they offered hope to the hundreds who showed up in need of it, and their actions alone put the Christmas spirit of giving into the air.

"When people lose hope, they have no incentive to live," said Bobbi Pack of Love in Action Outreach Ministries, which sponsored Thursday's Christmas event. "This is an inspirational program for people going through crisis and difficult times."

And according to Pack, many of those present Thursday were people who fell into that category - they'd fallen on tough economic times.

"Everyone in there is saying they didn't have anything for Christmas," she said. "If you went in there and talked to these people you'd hear lots of stories."

To help people temporarily forget their own personal horror stories of hardship, the nonprofit group first offered visitors an inspirational Christmas pep talk that got under way at 9 a.m. After that, Pack and her plethora of volunteers served up a hot Christmas meal while at the same time caroling to them. After eating, the little ones and their parents lined up to receive presents and clothing donated by Toys for Tots and local individuals and agencies. Pack said it was a concerted effort by many that made the event possible.

"A lot of sacrifice, time and follow-up went into this, and it's just a lot of unconditional love - that's about all I can say about it," she said. "And it's the look on their faces afterwards that makes it worthwhile - just knowing that we are providing a Christmas for people who wouldn't otherwise have one makes this worthwhile."

For Linda Giarissett, formerly of Dacula and now living in Jonesboro, she said her reason for coming out to volunteer was simple.

"I'm a giving person and I love people," she said. "Anyway that I can help them I will."

For Joann Tompkins of Lawrenceville, she's a disabled military veteran from the Vietnam era who met Pack a year ago at a similar event. She said she came out Thursday "to get something to eat" and because of the hope Pack instilled in her a year ago when she was going through difficult times. As someone who makes frequent trips to the veterans hospital and still battling her ailments, she hugged Pack and began crying when she saw her for the first time in a year.

"So much has happened to me," Tompkins said. "And Bobbi's still doing wonderful things and is a wonderful person."

For Pack, Christmas or no Christmas, she'll continue giving through the Love in Action Outreach Ministries because that's who she is, she said. Her efforts now in the giving department will focus on Norcross and the establishment of an emergency homeless shelter there for women and children. Called the House of Joy, Pack said the only thing preventing the center from opening is a lack of funding, something she's optimistic will be resolved over the coming months.

"My passion is to help people, period," Pack said. "And we just want to reach out to people who are in a crisis situation. And the doors to achieving that are beginning to open up."

For more information on the Love in Action Outreach Ministries or the House of Joy, call Bobbi at 404-513-5683 or her e-mail at bobbipack@yahoo.com.