by Debbonnaire Kovacs

Grace Fellowship Seventh-day Adventist Church, in Valdosta, GA, takes the command to “go into the highways and byways” quite literally. But when they went out and invited the homeless friends they had been making over the winter to a special Valentine’s banquet just for them, they didn’t find any need to “compel them to come”!
Sometime in November, Grace Fellowship’s pastor, Winston Taylor, had lunch with Lee Roy Henderson, a local pastor and radio personality on Black Crow Media, News Talk 105.3. Henderson told Taylor about the plight of about 15 homeless people who were living under a nearby overpass. Taylor wanted to help, and decided to take three young people, Loveinson Chevelon, Jemarion McEady, and Jevontay McEAdy from Grace Fellowship to visit the people under the bridge. What they saw broke their hearts.
Fourteen-year-old Jemarion begged, “Let’s go out and raise money for them right now!”
The church learned that there are about 900 homeless individuals in Valdosta. There are some local resources, food donations and so on, available to these people, but what they really want, as described by a December article in the Valdosta Daily Times, is “employment and a safe place to stay and sleep comfortably. For someone to be on their side when they genuinely call for help.”
From that time, Grace Fellowship, with its community services assistant leader, Kenda Henley, has pledged to be there to feed and otherwise offer support to the homeless under the bridge. The church has also partnered with the South Georgia Partnership to End Homelessness, hoping to end “this horrific monster” completely.
The friendships they made doing these visits to the “homes” of the homeless led to a special plan. On Valentine’s Day, 2013, they invited all their friends to invite all their friends to a special Valentine’s Day banquet. The goal was to treat these people who were facing such hard times and might often feel discouraged and even worthless like “kings and queens.” Anakaye Fagan, Communications Secretary at Grace Fellowship, stated, “The mission of the banquet Is to remind the homeless that they are special, needed, and that they can contribute to society.”
At least 80 homeless people showed up. With church members, volunteers, and people from local aid organizations who heard about it and came to help, Fagan thinks there were at least 150 present, though she only counted homeless guests.
The remainder of this space is turned over to pictures, interspersed with comments from some of those present.

Singing of the National Anthem by Ariana Taylor
It was real nice. I got food and enjoyed listening to the speakers. Gary B.                                                                                                       
I enjoyed the program. My mom taught me to be humble and I came to learn from so many inspirational people. My favorite part was listening to the speaker Dexter Sharper. Angelica Owens                                                                                                 
I enjoyed it. It was good. The food was good. My favorite part was listening to Poetic Magic. Misty T.                                                                                                                  
It was good. I enjoyed it. My favorite parts were the food, singing and the people. Joshua                                                                                                                
It was very nice. My favorite part was all of it. James G.                                                                                    

I loved it. It was fantastic. My favorite part was the speaker – he was very enlightening and gave us hope that there are people out there who really do love us. Ben S.                                                                                                                 
I heard about the event through a community newsletter on base and thought it would be a good thing for our association to volunteer here. We had 16 volunteers here and 2 kids. We had a great time and enjoyed ourselves. I learnt what a close knit community Valdosta is. When I got my daughter to leave and get to bed she said, “I’m not ready. I just put new gloves on.” Jacqueline Haro, Air Force Sergeant Association Chapter 460, Moody Air Force Base      During the Blessing                                                                                                  
Never felt greater in my life. Really enjoyed it. Jeffery W.                                                                                                          
I enjoyed the service. Really good. Comfortable.  Like your presence and your church. Jeanie D.                                                                                                           
It was okay. I was able to get some for somebody else. Anthony W.                                                                                                          
It was great. The food was real good. Grant S.              
 Attendee giving thanks

Had a fantastic dinner and a real nice time at this church. I get to take food home with me. I have a friend at home, a little girl, and today is her birthday and she wanted a cupcake for her birthday, and she’s getting a cupcake for her birthday, so I’m really happy. Dr. Paula Cousino-Cooper                                                                                   
I tell you what, I had a wonderful evening, just filled with joy and good food and love abounding. Patricia W.                                                                                                              
 The night was good. Enjoyed the food. Charles                                                                                                         
Banquet was fun. Janet                                                                                                      
It was very nice. Aree Howard Jr.