While she’s volunteered with Good Samaritan Ministries of Northeast Georgia over the past eight years, Jackie Powers said she’s felt something tugging on her heart.
“It’s more than just food. It’s helping people survive,” Powers said. “I’ve loved working with the people here, and I just fell in love with it. I felt like God was calling me to my next level of ministry.”
Little did Powers know during her first years at the ministry, she would one day become its next executive director.
On Jan. 18, 2021, Powers will officially start the role, overseeing the ministry’s food bank, building its awareness in the community and managing the fundraising. She will replace Alvin Bagwell, Good Samaritan’s executive director of more than eight years.
Jojo Thomas, Chattahoochee Baptist Association’s director of missions, said discussions of Bagwell’s retirement had occurred years leading up to the decision to hire Powers.
“We had conversation for several years about the fact that one day this was going to be necessary, and that when it did happen, not just anyone was going to take his role,” he said. “It needed to be someone who had a heart for the ministry, but understood the logistical and ministry side.”
Powers has served as the executive assistant to the pastor of Gainesville First United Methodist Church for over 25 years. If she were to ever leave that role, Powers said she knew it needed to be another ministry position.
“Serving the Lord with my hands and feet, and doing whatever I can to help someone else is very important to me and my spiritual life,” Powers said. “I feel very fulfilled when I’m doing all I can to follow the plan God has, not necessarily mine.”
During the first months as executive director, Powers said she plans to build relationships with volunteers, the clients they serve and others in the community.
Over the past 11 months, Good Samaritan Ministries, which is connected to the Chattahoochee Baptist Association, has distributed food to 84,027 people in Hall. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, families visit the ministry’s food bank, located on 1220 McEver Road in Gainesville. Hagen Ferguson, the food bank’s operations manager, said people are allowed to take one cart full of groceries every 30 days, which offers enough to feed a family of four for a month. People can also visit the food bank up to three times a week to pick out bread, desserts, eggs and other food. Powers said 80% of those they serve visit once a month.
In addition to food, the ministry offers counseling, free hygiene products, job placement training, furniture and health screenings to those in need.
“We’re ministering to more people (during the pandemic), and we’re finding that a lot of job loss has happened,” Powers said. “We’re helping put food on the table, so they can focus on rent. I think one of our focuses is to keep people from becoming homeless.”
Because of the pandemic, one-on-one counseling sessions have been less frequent. But Powers said she has found ways to speak on a personal level with people and pray for them.
“The days I’m here, if they (volunteers) sense there’s an issue or someone is at a loss for words, I have walked to the car with people to let them tell their story outside,” she said.
Throughout her time volunteering at the ministry, Powers said she will never forget the interactions she’s had with senior residents and those recovering from addiction.
While offering counseling, Powers said she met an 80-year-old woman who had come to the food bank because she was struggling to pay rent and put meals on the table after the death of her husband.
“I just fell in love with the eldery of the community because they do find themselves in a vulnerable place where they’re having to make some life decisions they never dreamed of,” Powers said. “Losing a partner for that particular time in their life, they find themselves not knowing what to do next.”
Powers, who has lived in Hall County for 32 years, has already started her transition into executive director. In addition to volunteering with counseling, Powers has experience serving on the ministry’s board and its vision team.
Thomas said Powers will prove a needed asset to the ministry.
“She has a deep network of relationships in the broad community because of her experience in the last 25 years,” Thomas said. “ Thank God for Alvin and all he’s done, but we’re also excited about Jackie and what she brings to the table.”For more information about Good Samaritan Ministries, call 770-532-3371 or visit gsfoodministry.com.