Helping the hungry: Church reaches out to needy on Christmas, throughout the year

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

LAWRENCEVILLE -- While much of the world was huddled around Christmas trees and relaxing among friends and family, a group of Good Samaritans spent Christmas helping complete strangers.

Volunteers from several churches and charitable organizations came together on a chilly Friday afternoon to spread warmth and cheer at the Trinity Life Church, dishing out hundreds of helpings of traditional holiday dinner to those in need.

Pastor David Brunson said the church has been providing meals since 2007 in an effort to not only feed the hungry, but perhaps help resolve deeper issues.

"We also use the food as a bridge to ask people how things are going," Brunson said. "If we can find out what some of their problems are -- whether it's chemical dependency, if they're unemployed -- we partner with various agencies and can get them help."

In addition to its own resources, the church uses donations from individuals and businesses to provide three meals a week to anyone who comes in hungry.

Because of the economic situation faced by many, Brunson said, Trinity Life served more meals in half of 2009 than it did the previous two years combined. With job loss, foreclosures and evictions rampant, more and more Gwinnettians are finding themselves in need of assistance.

"Every now and then someone needs a helping hand," Brunson said. "I really believe the church should be that helping hand, to show the love of Christ. That's what we're here for."

Denise Warren has been a member of Trinity Life for more than five years and remembers the church's initial vision of beginning a program to help feed the community's less fortunate.

"I've been on the other side of the table, so it feels good for me to know that I can help and give something back," she said.

Nicole Love, associate director of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, was joined Friday by her sister, niece and father, who was also celebrating his birthday.

"We decided to do this as a family," said Love, a social worker who believes helping others is just part of who she is.

The folks inside the church Friday were as diverse as society itself. There were young, old, black and white. Some appeared to stroll out of Lawrenceville's side streets while others rolled up in well-kept vehicles.

Judging from the smiles and laughter it would have been easy to forget that the good times were being had smack dab in the middle of some of the toughest times in recent memory.

"The face of homelessness isn't the man in Atlanta holding a can and asking for money," Love said. "It's the working family who has lost their jobs, their home."

Sure, the men and women who spent Christmas feeding the hungry at Trinity Life Church could've been doing a thousand other things, could have been any number of other places.

But on this Christmas day they chose to love their neighbors as themselves.

They gave, but they didn't sacrifice a thing.

"I couldn't think of a better way to spend my Christmas than by helping families," Love said.