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Gainesville gospel singer helps people who live on street

POSTED: February 9, 2009 12:23 a.m.

Gospel singer on a mission for the homeless

Gainesville resident Jacky Fortner, a Southern Gospel singer, helps feed homeless residents Sunday morning at Queen City Trade Center in Gainesville.

TOM REED/The Times

Jacky Fortner, a Southern gospel singer who has started a homeless ministry, hands out coats to homeless people gathered Sunday morning at the Queen City Trade Center.

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Jacky Fortner has used his tenor voice for years to minister to audiences. These days, it’s his hands and feet trying to bring some measure of comfort.

The 55-year-old Gainesville resident started this fall bringing food to homeless people gathered at Queen City Trade Center at Queen City Parkway and Industrial Boulevard.

"I was riding down the street and ... I noticed the people on the side of the street. So, I started talking to them and found out they were homeless," said Fortner.

He was delivering flowers at the time as part of his job at a Gainesville florist.

"I had come out with a new CD at the time, and God spoke to my heart ... (to use) the profit I made off (it) to feed them. And I’ve been doing that ever since."

Fortner, a Dahlonega native, has sung since he was 3 years old and has traveled as a Southern gospel singer since 16. He performed in the 1980s and 1990s with the group "Liberty," winning popular and critical acclaim.

He now performs solo concerts, records CDs and helps with worship services at his church, New Haven Church at 615 White Sulphur Road.

Sunday morning, he brought biscuits and coffee to the Queen City Trade Center and within minutes handed them out, along with cream and sugar, to a dozen or so people, mostly men, huddled against the wall of the brick retail building.

Several people followed Fortner to his car after he had announced that he had brought coats with him. He pulled the coats from his trunk and handed them to an eagerly waiting group.

Members at New Haven Church helped provide the coats, he said.

Also, "I have some people from different places who send money to help feed them," said Fortner.

He brings the food every Sunday morning and some weekday mornings.

"They don’t meet like this through the week but on Sundays, they do," Fortner said, adding that other groups minister to the homeless on Sundays at the center.

The experience so far "has been great," he said. "I’ve met some wonderful people."

One of those Fortner helps regularly, 59-year-old Robert Hall, who sleeps at a nearby bridge, said he has been down on his luck with a disability.

"They tell me I’m still able to work," he said, maintaining otherwise. "It’s just hard sometimes. You’ve got to find a way to make ends meet, though."

Hall said he has lived on the streets for about three years.

"If I can get my benefits started, I can get off the streets and get me an apartment somewhere," he said.

Fortner said he keeps up the ministry because "God’s been good to me and I just want to bless others."

The blessing has come back on him, as well.

"It’s overwhelming to see their faces when you feed them, talk to them and get to know them by name," he said.

On occasion, they ask Fortner to pray for them at his church.

"There have been a couple of them who ask ‘Can I pray for you?’" he said. "And that’s really a blessing."



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