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Gadsden’s Twelfth Street serves community through meal ministrycomment (0)

March 27, 2014

By Anna Keller

Gadsden’s Twelfth Street serves community through meal ministry

When Twelfth Street Baptist Church, Gadsden, launched its Taste of Hope Hot Meal Center on March 1, volunteers anticipated that maybe nine or 10 people would show up. Instead they welcomed 74 people into their fellowship hall between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. that Saturday.

The church served a meal of baked ham, sweet potato casserole, green beans, a roll, assorted desserts, coffee, tea and water — all served to seated guests by volunteers.

“A guest expressed, ‘These people really care about us. We have real plates, real silver and real glasses to drink out of,’” said Martha McArthur, one of the two women at Twelfth Street Baptist heading up the ministry. “That really meant a lot to them.” 

The seed for Taste of Hope was planted by a 14-year-old member of Twelfth Street — Bayleigh Garmon — who wondered why the church couldn’t execute something similar to the soup kitchen where she had volunteered. McArthur and Joan Brown were tapped by the church to organize the program. 

Both relatively new to Twelfth Street, the ladies had never even met each other before being asked to lead the initiative in early February. 

“We were told that the church wanted to start a soup kitchen, and we’d been asked to head it up,” Brown recalled. “We thought we’d start it in May but realized that Brother Craig [Carlisle, the church’s pastor] wanted it to start much sooner.”

Brown and McArthur solicited volunteers from the church to help and ended up with so many they had to convene in the sanctuary to meet with everyone at once. Of the church’s 1,200 members, about 90 wanted to help out with the new ministry. Because there was such a huge team of folks to act as volunteers, Brown and McArthur were able to organize several teams to give people specific roles. Teams include a security team, a counseling team, guides, parking lot attendants, greeters, people who set up and tear down the dining room, servers, dish washers, a promotions/marketing group, a decorating group and more.

“The people of the church have a heart to serve in the community,” McArthur said. “In this area, the need is very great. There are many people [who] don’t have a hot meal most days.”

McArthur and Brown said the name for the ministry was developed by the volunteers and that there was an intentional goal not to include “soup kitchen” in the title. They want guests to feel special and to be seated at tables and then served in a clean space by kind people.

Carlisle said, “Our goal at Twelfth Street is to ‘Be the Church’: everyone, everywhere, every day. Taste of Hope is an avenue through which that can happen. Our hope is that many other ministries will be birthed through Taste of Hope as we realize more of the needs of the people we are serving.”

For now, the plan is for Taste of Hope to be open the first Saturday of every month, but it might become a more frequent ministry if the interest is there.

McArthur said, “If the Lord continues to bless Twelfth Street, we know it’s going to continue to grow and grow. Also we’d love to involve some of the other churches in our area so it can be a community-wide ministry.”

Carlisle echoed McArthur’s desire to extend the ministry to the local church community and is especially proud of how many people — regardless of age, experience with this type of ministry, etc. — are able to have a key role.

“The beauty of a ministry like Taste of Hope is that it is cross-generational,” he said. “It involves families serving together. There is nothing more beautiful than when the body of Christ comes together across the generations and shares the love of Jesus.”

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