We call them homeless, impoverished, underpaid and underfed. The Master's Table calls them guests.
This direct outreach program from Golden Harvest Food Bank has served noontime meals to Augusta's needy since 1982, first through various church buildings, then in 1991 through its own facility in downtown Augusta.
As of last Monday, the soup kitchen is serving from its new location down the street at 702 Fenwick. Except now, the kitchen will be able to touch the lives of its guests like never before. While the old location was vital and much appreciated, it was simply too small and too old to accommodate and serve its guests.
"There was no time or room to treat guests like Jesus," says Mike Firmin, executive director of Golden Harvest Food Bank. Guests had to stand at the curb outside the small building, waiting to be shuffled through serving lines as quickly as possible, like a herd of cattle.
In the new building, the additional space and volunteers create a welcoming, breathtakingly peaceful environment that provides a free meal, with heaping side dishes of love, prayer and hospitality.
The guests are greeted and escorted through the beautiful courtyard, stopping to socialize and relax. The Table is more like a palace than a soup kitchen, and guests get a rare chance to be treated like royalty. The dining room seats 150 people, serving up food, music and clean bathrooms, and there are even two rooms where volunteers will be available to offer prayer and counseling for any guests who want it.
The sense of love and charity is overpowering, and the amount of community involvement in the Table's ministry is awe-inspiring. The new building wouldn't have been possible without generous donations, giving it the unofficial title, "The Miracle on Fenwick Street." The kitchen has received $1.45 million in donations within nine months for its planning and construction -- nearly the project's total cost of $1.5 million -- and volunteers have been wandering into the kitchen in droves to offer their valuable services. To the coordinators at the Master's Table, this is a dream come true.
And to the rest of us, the success of this project speaks volumes about the charity and selflessness of people in Augusta. The unbelievable generosity of volunteers and donors has truly created a beacon of hope, love and peace for Augusta within the Master's Table.