Dollie Bradshaw Highsmith, 81, lives in Appling.
About twice a week, she drives from the country to Harrisburg, the historic mill village where she grew up, to go to church and tend to the congregation’s food pantry and soup kitchen.
Christ Episcopal Church, she says, is home.
“This is my church,” Highsmith said. “This is where my children were baptized, confirmed. My husband was buried here. I hope that I will be buried here some time in the distant future.”
Highsmith grew up on the corner of Walker and Eve streets, walking to church with her friends, even though other members of her family didn’t go to church. “I’ve been here 50 years at least,” she said.
Highsmith is a mother of four and grandmother of 10. Her husband, Ray, was a combat veteran of World War II who participated in the Normandy Invasion. They lived in North Carolina and Germany together, returning to her hometown of Augusta in 1957 to make a home for themselves.
The church has changed, and so has the neighborhood, Highsmith said. The congregation started as a mission of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Augusta. For 132 years, it’s been a “light to the community.”
“It has served the same purpose all those years,” she said. “We welcome everybody in Christ Church. We always have.”
The church is “small but mighty,” said the Rev. Lynn B. Prather, vicar of the church.
The congregation of 30 served more than 800 meals at its soup kitchen last month.
“Dollie cooks for our soup kitchen twice a month,” Prather said. “She also collects and bags groceries for those in need once a month serving our food pantry.”
Highsmith serves up homemade spaghetti sauce, her famous cheese grits, and a popular ham salad.
“Whatever I’ve got, we give,” she said.
It’s enjoyable work, and she doesn’t do it all by herself, Highsmith said.
“I call myself the gopher,” she said with a laugh. “Me and my friends take care of the food distribution. This is a small congregation, but we’re a dedicated bunch.”
When Highsmith moved back to Augusta as an adult, she could have gone to church anywhere. She chose, however, to “come home.”
“This is home to me,” she said. “As long as this church is here, I’ll be coming.”