Providing a blessing
By John Joyce
Published in News on November 17, 2013 1:50 AM
Diondra'e Sutton, 12, and J.D. McGee, 6, pray together before their breakfast Saturday at First Baptist Church in Goldsboro during the fifth annual Warm the World clothing and supplies giveaway.
Hattie Amerson of Goldsboro tries on a coat with help from Kathy Davis on Saturday at First Baptist Church.
The line extended out the door, down the breezeway and around the corner.
There were men without jackets, women without shoes.
Some were just hungry.
Goldsboro's First Baptist Church, 125 S. John St., opened its doors to the city's homeless and needy families at 8 a.m. Saturday, for the fifth annual Warm the World clothing and supplies giveaway.
"They come in and they're given a card with a number on it that they'll use all day," a volunteer said.
His name tag read, "Hoot."
He said his name wasn't important.
"They come in and get a meal, that's first. The children can get a toy or a stuffed animal, and there are food bags they can take with them on their way out," Hoot said.
At the heart of the event, however, were the racks and tables in the gym filled with clothes.
"When their number is called, we take them down here," he said.
The expanse of the gym resembled a department store with aisles dedicated to men's attire and jackets, women's clothing and shoes, and a kids section.
A ring of tables hugged the gymnasium walls, each overflowing with contents ranging from sleeping bags to socks, underwear to hats, the gently used to the freshly purchased.
"We've been collecting (donations) since February," organizer Sherry Archibald said. "Of course, the biggest influx came over the past few weeks."
While their kids ate pizza, colored Thanksgiving turkeys and rummaged through crayon boxes and toy chests downstairs, adults combed the gym's racks.
Men's jackets and sport coats, women's full-length coats, pillows and blankets, mittens, bonnets and warm coats for the kids -- each item selected was carefully folded and stuffed into plastic shopping bags.
People emerged from the gym, stomachs and bags filled, and smiles across their faces.
Recipients and volunteers exchanged thank-yous repeatedly, each calling the other a "true blessing."
"It really is a blessing, I've never seen anything like this. I'm not from Goldsboro, I'm from Florida," one women said as her husband filled bags with pillows, shirts and jackets.
"There are three of us," she said, her eyes widening, lips clenching. She found no more words.
Warm the World is the brainchild of First Baptist Church member and Sunday school teacher Scottie Percise.
"It started with one Sunday school class and then spread to two. I think in our first year we gave to maybe 10 people," she said.
Last year there were 300.
"God has increased it 100-fold each year," she said.
More impressive than the outpouring of time and resources from the church members and the community, including several local businesses, though, Ms. Percise said, was the number of people sitting down together having fellowship.
"It's just been a real eye-opener to see the need. They are sitting together and sharing their stories with our volunteers and everybody has joined together. It has really brought a sense of unity," she said.
By 9:30 a.m., the number of recipients neared 200, but with only one number assigned to each single adult or family unit, it was nearly impossible to count how many men, women and children passed through the doors of the First Baptist Church Saturday.
With food donated by Zaxby's, Pizza Inn and Jersey Mike's to go along with the meals prepared by the church, and with food bags prepared specifically for the single, the homeless and the needy family, recipients left the church warm and full.
One girl, Jayanna, smiled when complimented on her new hat, a girl's checkered Cabbie with a black button on the brim.
"Somebody gave it to me," she said. She wanted to say more but only her eyes and her smile could convey what she felt.
Finally, the right words came to her. She sprung up from her chair and sat right back down, the way kids do when trying so hard to wait their turn.
"It's my Beyonce hat," she said.