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Traffic snarl caused by goodwill project

LAWRENCEVILLE -- One family slept at Coolray Field overnight. Others lined up at 8 a.m.

But by the time church volunteers began at 1 p.m. giving away food to people struggling in the community, the lines crept down local streets and interstates, bringing traffic to a halt in much of northern Gwinnett Saturday.

Coupled with last-minute shoppers at the nearby Mall of Georgia, the 12Stone Church program to feed 6,000 families created a reported hour and a half backup on I-85.

"Apparently, the word spread farther and faster and broader than we expected," said church financial officer Norwood Davis, adding that the church ran out of food at 4 p.m. and had to turn thousands away. "It overwhelmed our expectations."

The response to the goodwill offering overwhelmed a church that typically has no logistical problem with shepherding 12,000 worshippers to and from services each weekend.

Michael Turner, who lives off Rock Springs Road just a mile from the baseball stadium, said traffic jams had never reached that level -- not during Gwinnett Braves home games or on the mall's biggest shopping days.

"It took my wife 50 minutes to go less than three miles," he said. "I was thinking it had to be an accident. ... Black Friday wasn't this bad."

Despite the inconvenience, Turner praised the church for its efforts, which gave families faced with unemployment a week's worth of groceries, a HoneyBaked ham or turkey, four tickets to a G-Braves game and "Christmas is Love" CD. The outreach, worth $1 million in goods and services was funded through corporate partners as well as a special offering collected by the congregation.

A year ago, the church had a similar event distributing groceries to 5,000 families, and some food was left over to be donated to food banks, Davis said.

"It is a sign of the times," he said of the overwhelming need. "You never want to turn people away but we're just excited to offer a small piece of hope to 6,000 families this Christmas."

Comments

kwilly56 2 years, 4 months ago

As a family with both parents out of work for the last four months and unable to find a job it seemed a real blessing that someone would offer food and gifts so urgently needed this time of year. Unfortunatly as so often happens the greedy want to take advantage of the situation. That apeared to be the case today while waiting in line and seeing brand new high end cars with 90 day temp tags lined up as well for a free handout. Shame on you!!! Perhaps the event would have been better served if vouchers were given to those that actually qualified for the need to keep the heartless vultures from stealing from those in need.

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kwilly56 2 years, 4 months ago

As a family with both parents out of work for the last four months and unable to find a job it seemed a real blessing that someone would offer food and gifts so urgently needed this time of year. Unfortunately as so often happens the greedy want to take advantage of the situation. That appeared to be the case today while waiting in line and seeing brand new high end cars with 90 day temp tags lined up as well for a free handout. Shame on you!!! Perhaps the event would have been better served if vouchers were given to those that actually qualified for the need to keep the heartless vultures from stealing from those in need.

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SheepDog1776 2 years, 4 months ago

I think it great that 12 Stone Chruch wanted to give away free hams to 6000 unemployed folks. This was, in my opinion, a well intentioned event but suffered from poor execution. I was stuck in traffic for over over two hours trying to make it back to my house from the grocery store. My sister-in-law was stuck in traffic for four housrs trying to make it from Sugarloaf PKWY to Buford Drive. I said abut every four letter word I could think of because I was so frustrated.

Gwinnett Police were on the scene but it appeared to me that they had no plan in place to deal with the traffic. Most of the officers I observed were scrambling to get in place and were left scratching their head. Gwinnett Special Operations Motorcycle Officers eventually showed up but they had no plan either. It was pure gridlock. Gwinnett PD did the best they could but they were very unprepared. They had no traffic cones, no plan, no organiaztion and as a result severl hundred or more Gwinnett County Residents couldn't make it back to their homes.

The people who showed up for the free hams probably spent more money on gasoline for their idling cars than they would have if they had just gone to the grocery store in their own neigborhood and purchased hams themselves.

Next year 12 Stone Church ought to have people pre-register online for food vouchers. They could them mail them the voucher or send out chruch vans full of hams to designated areas of the state.

p.s. what I meant to say above was that the gwinnett pd officers on the scene did the best they could with what they were faced with. The department as a whole and the incident commadner for this event were extremely unprepared for this amount of traffic. They should have had a plan that included cones, lane re-allocation, dozens more officers, and an overall traffic flow plan.

Also, 12-Stone should maybe ask for pre-regestriations and then stagger thier arrival times so as not to create a cluster F!@#.

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MaryHendrix 2 years, 4 months ago

I agree. We could not even get out of our neighborhood. Maybe next year have it at the Church. Alot more room for people to drive in and out. Have people sign up for vouchers and figure out how to give to the needy and not the greedy. Or give to the food banks and let the people go there over a 2 week period. Something has got to change, its not fair to the people to live around the stadium to have to deal with the gridlock, and especially the last weekend before Christmas. Poor planning for sure!!

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DMPeairs 2 years, 4 months ago

Actually 2,800 vouchers were handed out in advance to those who signed up and they picked their food up at the Church while 3,200 were offered to all single moms and unemployed family in need on a first come first served basis at the Gwinnett Braves Stadium. It was didvided up in 2 different locations.

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wiseguy 2 years, 4 months ago

Everyone thought it was free Christmas gifts not food.....

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Michael Buckelew 2 years, 4 months ago

I got held up for a little bit miles down Ga. 20, but this sounds like it was well worth the jam. Kudos to 12Stone.

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Braveshopr 2 years, 4 months ago

Kwilly, I was out that way also and noted 2 new caddies, a Lexis, several shiny new Coopers and Kias, just from my vantage point. But the worst offenders were the new F150's and large trucks that actually made their own lane on the feeder road, then barreled/pushed their way onto waiting people who had been there before them. I also noted license plates from Fulton, and several other counties. I saw a man from Hall County with a sticker on his car that said 'retired' . I feel for the retired folks, but he was driving a new shiny black truck, so there wasn't much empathy for him, especially since he chose to block an entire lane attempting to push his truck on to the right lane, where there were at least 4000 thousand cars that had been waiting in that lane prior to him. I also saw a lot of needy and wished I could help them personally. As to, 12 Stone Church cannot accommodate everyone- they should limit their giving to Lawrenceville residents first, then the disabled, and sadly, ask those sporting Caddies and such to just go home. If they were truly needy they can sell their shiny new cars.

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ThomasPaine 2 years, 4 months ago

I was also stuck in this mess. Jammed Lawrenceville-Suwanee, jammed I-85 north, jammed Horizon, Satellite was a parking lot -- and all of this is nowhere near Coolray. Seriously, 12Stone? You burned a lot of community good will.

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R 2 years, 4 months ago

Sorry - but your namesake is rolling in his grave right now ...

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Braveshopr 2 years, 4 months ago

(from my earlier post, a correction: 12 Stone should limit their giving to Gwinnette County.)

ThomasPaine - From what I gather 12 Stone Church did not have any way to anticipate how many people would show up. They actually had food left over last year according to a previous post. So please don't blame them. I live off of Old Peachtree Rd. and even that was jammed. If they do this again they will likely have to make some adjustments. Meanwhile, their work was needed and appreciated 5 to 6 thousand times, minus the greedy ones who should have never been there in the first place.

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tajusaf 2 years, 4 months ago

Speaking as a fellow Gwinnett County resident along with 12 Stone Church, I want to express my (trying to keep things positive as it is a church) sincere disgust with yesterday's traffic chaos and boondoggle of an effort to create goodwill. Mr. 12 Stone, you have just created more bad will with your community than you can ever imagine. My family and I sat on I-85 N. for over two hours without moving. This mad me two hours late for a funeral ceremony. Next time, if 12 Stone really wants to do something to help the community - PUT OUT JIFFY JOHNNY'S ALONG I-85 BEFORE YOU MAKE THE MOST BONE-HEADED CHURCH MOVE SINCE JESUS HIMSELF WAS RESURRECTED!

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ckauz 2 years, 4 months ago

After reading some of these comments I can't believe how selfish some people are. A few hours of traffic didn't destroy your life. Stop and think for a minute about the good that 12Stone did for 6,000 people in Gwinnett County. Think about those who don't have a job right now, think about those who are facing Foreclosure, Think about those that can't afford gifts for their children, and now can have a Christmas Meal for their Families. We all know that on any day of the week in the strangest areas a traffic problem can happen. You have to be prepared for that. For those who are complaining that they saw "Rich People" or "Expensive Cars" in line... DId you not stop and think for one second that MAYBE these people could have been helping out a friend in need. Driving them to this to help them out.

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missjamka 2 years, 4 months ago

I agree with you ckauz..These people are truly SELFISH..OMGEEEEEEEE I can not believe these comments. "There but by the GRACE of GOD GO I" Man UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!

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kmsimpson 2 years, 3 months ago

And to those of us that can no longer have a nice Christmas dinner because we now have to replace gas that we wasted sitting in the mess??? Do you consider OUR dinner unimportant?

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Kent 2 years, 4 months ago

Observers seeing the high end vehicles at this event reminds me of many of the SNAP recipients at the grocery store leaving the grocery store in their high dollar rides.

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Dawgz 2 years, 4 months ago

Just for context....

The food distributed was a week's worth of groceries for a family of four.

That's 24,000 people served a week's worth of meals.

Also, many of the high end cars were elderly or unemployed friends brought by loved ones.

12Stone always works hard to do things well. I am sure they will learn from this and improve.

My suggestion - next year's event could be held Midnight-to-2am at Mall of Georgia. Big lot, lots of egress, and best time of night with no traffic when mall closes at 10p (just don't do Black Friday)

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grizzlebees 2 years, 4 months ago

@ckauz: yeah, but let's also remember some people work on the weekends and I wound up being 45 minutes late to work thanks to the event. what they did is good, but they did a terrible job organizing the event and planning for the outcome and 12stone church owes the people an apology for the mess they made of traffic all over Lawrenceville.

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Braveshopr 2 years, 4 months ago

Ckauz and Dawgs - Oh if it were only so. The folks I saw were alone in their cars and certainly not disabled or elderly. They were mostly in their late 30's to fifties. While it may be so that such a person either elderly or disabled was being chauffeured by a wealthy person sporting a late model car, I did not such two-some. I did see a lady driving a newish caddie who appeared in her fifties, but, again, if she was so much in need of food she should sell her car, buy an el-cheapo and pocket the difference.

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lovit 2 years, 4 months ago

12 Stone needs to apologize to all of Gwinneet County for the disaster they created on Saturday. People ran out of gas on 85, people missed family functions, people were very inconvienced. Next year have it at Gwinnett Arena , and at least warn everyone. Some consideration would have been appreciated!!!!

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tajusaf 2 years, 4 months ago

Hope Ms. Young will continue to follow up on this until we are guaranteed from Twelve Stone that this WILL NOT happen again next year!

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BlueDevil 2 years, 4 months ago

A great thing to do for people that need it. However, they picked the absolute worst day to do it being the Saturday before Christmas. I was near The Mall of Ga. all day working. Traffic was terrible. Where were the Gwinnett County Police? Why wouldn't they put a couple of police officers at all major lights near the mall to keep traffic flowing during that time? That traffic killed our business and other businesses that day. People were running yellow lights and getting stuck out in the intersection blocking the next green light. No kidding! People were honking their horns and yelling at people. Why wouldn't the Gwinnett County Police put officers at the lights to keep traffic flowing? Hopefully next year 12Stone will do this earlier in December and have it better planned out. They may want to get the county involved to minimize traffic and congestion.
Merry Christmas!

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bnhwillard 2 years, 4 months ago

Listen, as bad as I feel for anyone inadvertently stuck in this traffic (I certainly am not one to like it!), this was an act of charity to the community. The church did its part, it raised the money, got the donations, and provided the volunteer support. The police did their part by providing the officers that were needed based on the plan. If any error was made, it would be by whomever approved the plan at the county level - and if there was police presence obviously there was some sort of plan in place. Guess what? I am sure they have learned their lesson, and next year we will see a different handling, whatever it may be.

In the meantime, if you are just spewing hatred, instead try being thankful that perhaps you have a job and a home, and pray that maybe next year you will again not need to line up and wait for hours to get a free meal handout.

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kmsimpson 2 years, 3 months ago

Just as an FYI, some of us WILL be going without on Christmas thanks to this. Personally, I wasted $40 worth of gas trying to get home. I still need the gas in my car, so now it is coming from my family's Christmas dinner.

But because the church had good intentions, that makes it okay for them to make my family suffer, right?

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Jeff 2 years, 4 months ago

First and foremost kudos to 12 Stone for their efforts. I do hope that they will take the lessons learned and improve the process next year. Don't hold the event on the last shopping weekend before Christmas near the busiest mall in the state of Georgia. Needy families are needy all year long, so another date would work just as well. There are also several other locations that could be considered such as the Gwinnett Arena area. I think that the idea or vouchers was a good suggestion too.

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ThomasPaine 2 years, 4 months ago

With all due respect to the homers trying to rationalize their church's incredible lack of planning, you have a responsibility to plan. As was evident, the laissez-faire approach ("if we give it, they will come") didn't work at all well. It was incredibly lazy execution of a great idea.

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NorwoodDavis 2 years, 4 months ago

Good afternoon, my name is Norwood Davis, and I serve on the staff of 12Stone Church and am responding to the many comments on its behalf.

First, I apologize to those who were inconvenienced on Saturday. While there were many contributing factors to the traffic congestion on Saturday including multiple shopping malls, the beginning of the holiday travel season, etc., we recognize that the Feed 5000 campaign made a significant contribution to the traffic congestion across the northern part of the County on Saturday.

Second, we recognize that there were many unintended consequences and inconveniences. While we had developed a traffic management plan weeks ahead and refined it through the approach and even the day of the event, the word of mouth, viral explosion around the event produced a response from those seeking the Christmas package that overwhelmed our plan. While our plan did not anticipate the volume of traffic, we did invest a significant amount of time, energy and money in developing a plan. While we may have underestimated the volume of traffic, we were not dismissive or inattentive to the planning process. In the end, we are guilty of being human and making mistakes. For that, we ask your forgiveness.

Third, we appreciate the assistance and support of the Gwinnett County Police, Gwinnett County Fire, Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office and the many municipal police departments that assisted in responding to the traffic congestion. We ask that the public please direct any frustration to us and not toward the dedicated public safety officials that serve all of us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.

Fourth, we appreciate the time people are taking to offer constructive comments and suggestions on how any future efforts may be handled differently. There are a number of very productive thoughts, ideas, and suggestions that will help us do better next time. I invite any so inclined to email me directly with your constructive ideas to norwood.davis[at]12stone.com

Fifth, I want to thank the hundreds of people who have offered their encouragement to us to continue to serve those among us most in need in our community. Long after all of our frustrations regarding this event have evaporated, 24,000 people in some 6,000 unemployed families will celebrate a Christmas meal together that they may not have otherwise enjoyed.

Sixth, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!

Norwood Davis, Chief Financial Officer 12Stone Church

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missjamka 2 years, 4 months ago

MERRY CHRISTMAS MR DAVIS...I PRAISE GOD for you and the genorosity of the church. I was stuck in the traffic also but I had no idea what the jam was all about. Knowing now what caused the traffic jam I would have stayed in it and burned ALL my gas out so people in need could be BLESSED... Thank you and 12stone for your Christ like attitudes..If other churches in the community had done this traffice would not have been so bad!!!!

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kmsimpson 2 years, 3 months ago

Dear Mr. Davis, As one of those stuck in that joyous event, I have a few comments. First, this is not the first time 12 Stone has done damage to the local traffic, it just happens to be the most in depth. Routinely every weekend 12 Stone messes up traffic in the area. I happen to live very close to 12 Stone, and without fail, I have difficulties getting places on Sundays due to 12 Stone. We in the local neighborhood have to time OUR schedules around YOUR services. One weekend, I was literally trapped in my subdivision! Lately, you have also taken to also blocking traffic on SR 20 on Saturdays and Wednesdays. No offense sir, but we, too, have lives.

Second, had 12 Stone REALLY wanted to help out the community, they could have checked to see if any of the local people needed help. We have a battered women's shelter here in Lawrenceville, along with several other places that probably could have used the food, never mind that I'm sure many of their actual neighbors may have needed the food. Instead, we had people coming in from Oconee County, and other places. That does nothing for the local community.

The reason so many people are so upset with 12 Stone is not because of this weekend in particular, but because overall, the church is an inconsiderate, rude neighbor.

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philo 2 years, 4 months ago

The parking lot at Coolray was not opened until late. People parked at Publix and blocked the parking lot. Next year plan ahead and open the parking lot. I have a feeling that North Metro Baptist would have cooperated if given the opportunity.

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GwinnettResident2001 2 years, 4 months ago

Here's what I don't understand - the average GBraves game draws about 5,000 people. How is it that just 1,000 more is able to cripple all of northern Gwinnett County's roadways, including the interstate? Even if several people ride together to a GBraves game, the number of seats in GBraves Stadium is over 10,000 - what happens if they actually come close to capacity? Will it shut down the entire area?

I have a hard time understanding how, at a location that has a capacity of 10,000+ people that a 6,000 person event does this much damage. It doesn't make sense - it doesn't make sense that the police don't have any clue how to handle it. Granted that there are extenuating circumstances with it being the Saturday before Christmas near the Mall of Georgia, but it still doesn't make any sense that this would cause this much of a problem. The interstate and road system around Turner Field and the Georgia Dome are not so vastly superior that they can regularly handle 6 to 12 times as many people.

Something doesn't add up.

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tajusaf 2 years, 4 months ago

Doesn't sound like much of an apology to me - no where does it say WE ASSURE YOU THAT THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN! That is all Gwinnett County asks from you showboating peacocks - not a list of excuses as to why it was all caused by somebody else! Boneheads

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NewsReader 2 years, 4 months ago

Good Grief! Cry me a bucket full why don't ya! How is the fact you were late to a funeral any more or less important to any of the rest of us? I, for one, don't care. What I do care about is the many people that willingly sacrificed a day in their life for someone else they did not know. 12Stone doesn't need to apologize to you. They need to pray for you.

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Braveshopr 2 years, 4 months ago

Tajusaf- Me thinks you are the 'showboating peacock'. As was stated, no one could anticipate what happened.

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kmsimpson 2 years, 3 months ago

It sounds like you are one of the 12 Stone parishioners that has defended this so much in so many places. I agree with tajusaf, there is no apology in there. As a matter of fact, Mr. Davis attempts to deflect some of the blame onto the Mall of Georgia.

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R 2 years, 3 months ago

NO actually the media did that ...

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kmsimpson 2 years, 3 months ago

Read it again. Here is the third sentence, "While there were many contributing factors to the traffic congestion on Saturday including multiple shopping malls, the beginning of the holiday travel season, etc., we recognize that the Feed 5000 campaign made a significant contribution to the traffic congestion across the northern part of the County on Saturday."

"While there were many contributing factors.....," is the deflection. Mr. Davis does not apologize, he tries to blame part of it on other events.

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philo 2 years, 4 months ago

The parking lot at Coolray was not open. The parking lot at Publix was overrun with non shoppers. Next year OPEN the Coolray lot! North Metro Baptist would also probably cooperate if asked. Keep praying, but do some planning for next year!

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Dawgz 2 years, 4 months ago

It also may be helpful to note that the planning and advertising the church did was targeted to Gwinnett County. An AJC reporter heard about it and ran a story. Also, other Atlanta Metro organizations (churches, hospitals, schools, governments) started pushing people there. A simple act of kindness for county residents went viral without the church's knowledge or encouragement.

"First, I apologize" - sounds like an apology.

Did they have a plan? yes. (it may have got overwhelmed but they tried)
Can they guarantee it won't happen again? Only if they stop helping people.

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gwinnettisgreat1 2 years, 4 months ago

Some things that need to be made clear:

  1. Braves stadium can handle that many cars, but they were not parking them. It was a drive up, get your box of groceries and go line. Therefore the people waiting were waiting on the road. Add in 1 week before Christmas on Saturday and there you have 4 hours of traffic.

  2. Church's are about outreach to the community. This was an in reach. You come to us and we will give you something. What they should do next year is 1 of 2 things in my mind. A. You take your 6,000 meals and divide them into 6 locations throughout gwinnett county. Snellville, Duluth, Dacula, Coolray field, ect... This does 2 things. It does not cause traffic jams like Saturday and you keep people who really need it from spending $20+ in gas. This is outreach. or B. You have people sign up online, Have a cut off date of say Dec. 7. Volunteers organize addresses into 20 zones, you rent 20 Ryder trucks load them up with your boxes of food and its delivery time. The people who need the food, it comes to their door and it gives you a chance to talk to these people one on one. That my friends is outreach. Oh yeah... your traffic jam... it didn't happen in this scenario.

  3. Church's of 12 Stones size are all about numbers as well. They can spin it however they want, reaching others for Christ, spreading the word, increasing the fold, but more people in seats means more $$ in the plate, means more "outreach", means more satelite locations, more growing. It becomes too big to fail, just ask the people that attend there. I am sure 12 Stone's intentions are great, in fact I know they are, but all the people I know that go there love to brag about how big they are or what they are doing. Never once do I hear them talk about how many they are baptizing or how many they had come to have a personal relationship with Christ. It's what turns me off about them. But thats just me personaly and based soley off the small % that I know that attend there. I also know a lady that was a receipent of the meal for a week and she needed it, so they are doing good things as well. The church is not perfect and neither are the people that park their butts in pews on Sunday nor are the people they served last Saturday.

  4. No matter what they do next year it needs to be spread out and verified better of who is truly in need and who is looking for a hand out. 12 Stone serves thousands every Sunday I am sure they will figure out how to handle thousands one extra Saturday out of the year without turning off as many people as they turned on to their church.

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RockyP 2 years, 3 months ago

Gwinnettisgreat1- Some great ideas. Obviously in this second large scale attempt to help others, some things that were thought to be planned out need improvement. I would like for you to know that it is more than just about numbers. 12 Stone has many baptisms every month during services and there are hundreds of small groups where personal relations and relationships with Christ are formed and grown. The best thing for me is that people are not judged by their status, color, addiction or need when they walk through the doors at 12 Stone and many come out with a faith in Christ and a new life with the support of other believers. No, 12 Stone is not for everyone. I have been in large and small churches over my 50 years and none are perfect, but I do believe that 12 Stone is doing what Jesus wants us all to do and that is too love one another and to share Christ's love for others. I am just one that served last Saturday, but to anyone (like tjusaf) I apologize for the inconvenience. However, if you could have seen the gratitude and tears of some that were so in need of help it was all worth it. Please come and check out the people that make up 12 Stone. I thnk it will change your mind.

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kmsimpson 2 years, 3 months ago

What about those of us that spent $40 worth of gasoline that we could ill afford to travel 7 miles??? Does the church helping some make up for harming so many others?

By justifying the harm caused others, you are forgetting one of the oldest proverbs, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

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