Smiles spread from ear to ear Tuesday at Friendship Community Center as its members celebrated Thanksgiving with games, singing and Southern cooking.
Executive Director Leonard Maxey said the smiles and laughter assure him that a difference is being made in members’ lives.
The center, which has been open since 1976, provides a safe, homelike environment for its members, who suffer from mental and emotional disorders.
Each week members can come to the Central Avenue center, which is sponsored by the United Way, to receive a home-cooked meal, participate in arts
and crafts, learn skills and find the guidance needed to reach their goals.
This year, several members have moved into independent housing, found jobs and started going to school, and no one has returned to jail.
On Tuesday, after having a cakewalk, making s’mores over a fire, singing and dancing at the center’s first Thanksgiving celebration, the 40 members each took a turn at the microphone to say what they were thankful for.
“Thank you everybody for this year,” said a member called Mr. David. “It’s been better for every other year.”
Almost all members thanked the center’s volunteers for being their family. Members were presented with individual gift baskets full of goodies donated by an Augusta family.
The celebration was extremely touching for office manager Mikey Coffman, who started seven years ago as a member at the center.
“I used to sit on the couch and watch TV and wish I would die. Then along came a group that cared,” Coffman said.
With the assistance of the community center, Coffman attacked her problems, went back to school and got a job at the center.
“It helps them know that just because they’re alone doesn’t
mean that people don’t care,” she said.