While a praise band played on a flatbed trailer, Shreda Turner walked around under the Calhoun Expressway bridge Saturday, enjoying the smell of a turkey dinner and watching volunteers prepare for the crowds that would arrive within the hour.
This was second time Turner attended the Bridge Ministry’s annual Thanksgiving service.
The service is one of the biggest of the year for the Bridge Ministry. Organizer Roger Gardner said he expected to feed 1,200 people a traditional Thanksgiving dinner after the worship service. The ministry typically serves more than 300 people 50 Saturdays a year.
After dinner, new coats were distributed to those who needed them.
Turner brought a friend’s three children, ranging in age from 4 to 13. Her friend lives in subsidized housing and works part time, said Turner, adding that she helps with the children when she can. She planned to get a coat for her friend and the children.
Gardner said the Bridge Ministry grew out of his compassion for street people. A similar outreach in Nashville, Tenn., spurred him to start the service in Augusta through New Hope Worship Center.
Last year, First Baptist Church of Augusta joined the ministry, offering the resources to conduct services weekly. Other churches and missions, including Grace Baptist Church, New Life Christian Center and the Augusta Rescue Mission, also provide food, money and volunteers.
“This might sound like we have a lot of help, but we’re here 50 weekends a year and we always need volunteers,” Gardner said.
He said 1,000 people were served at last year’s Thanksgiving service and the event grows by at least 200 every year.
Alyson Hall brought five groups of young people from Journey Community Church to volunteer.
“It’s bigger than anything I would have expected to be going on in Augusta,” said Hall, who is the outreach coordinator for Journey’s youth group.
Her youth group mingled with the crowd, prayed with people and assisted with children’s church.
Hall has been bringing youths to help for about six months and said some of the young people are beginning to build relationships with some of the ministry’s regular patrons.
“So many people think that to do missions you have to go elsewhere,” she said. “A lot of times we overlook what is right next to us.”