Faith brought man to Augusta, and service followed

Barry Forde looks through a stained glass window at his south Augusta home. He and his family moved to Augusta's Alleluia Community in the early 1980s.

Barry Forde did not move to Augusta to feed the hungry.

In the early 1980s, the Bronx, N.Y., native was looking around the United States for a Christian community to move his family to.

"We had really begun to believe very strongly that we were called on to live a deeper Christian life," said Forde, a computer programmer educated at New York University.

In Augusta, Forde and his wife, Diane, discovered Alleluia Community, a group of like-minded people, most of whom live in neighboring houses in south Augusta.

As a volunteer at Augusta's new food bank, Golden Harvest, he found staff addressing more than 15,000 cards by hand and explained that a computer would make the task much easier.

Executive Director Mike Firmin offered him a job. The year was 1984.

"I had never done anything like that in a professional way," Forde said.

Soon he would take over a cheese- and butter-distribution program. Later he would run the warehouse, and in the 1990s Forde was named associate director of the food bank.

Since its founding, Golden Harvest has grown, as has Alleluia, where Forde leads one of the community's support groups. Today, the food bank distributes food in 30 counties in Georgia and South Carolina, and Forde said the face of the area's hungry has changed.

"When the food bank began in the early 1980s, the folks we served were very young and very old," he said. "What I've seen in the last five to seven years is a growing number of working poor, and in the last couple of years it has gotten even worse."

Two years ago, a typical noontime meal at the Master's Table, Golden Harvest's soup kitchen, served 150 to 175 people, he said. Today, the Master's Table serves closer to 300 daily, he said.

Being part of a national food bank network is important for distribution in an area that has few food manufacturers, but a down economy is slowing food donations, he said.

Golden Harvest has its primary warehouse in Augusta, with branches in Aiken and Liberty, S.C., in addition to its soup kitchen at 842 Fenwick St. It will open a new soup kitchen on Fenwick in June, he said.

Firmin said Forde has been more than his right hand for many years.

"I'm kind of the blue-sky-vision person who paints things with a wide brush," Firmin said. "Barry's the detail person."

"The food bank is engaged in such a daunting task of ending hunger; there's no way that one person could have the gifts to lead an organization like Golden Harvest, and God provided in Barry Forde the perfect complement," Firmin said. "He's got all the things that I lack, and it just dovetailed beautifully."

Forde, who turns 63 in July, said he's far from slowing down.

"There's a lot of work to be done," he said. "I don't think I'll ever retire-retire."

Married for 40 years, with one son and a grandson, Forde said he's a happy man.

"When you find out what it is that God wanted you to do and you do it, it's very satisfying," he said. "I'm very satisfied with my wife and my family and with what I do during the day. It makes a difference in people's lives, and that's very, very satisfying."

Barry Forde

OCCUPATION: Associate director, Golden Harvest Food Bank

FAMILY: Wife of 40 years, Diane; one son, one grandson

EDUCATION: Graduate of New York University

QUOTE: "When you find out what it is that God wanted you to do and you do it, it's very satisfying."