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Local couple pays it forward
Maria and Jason Ladd show thanks by helping the homeless
Jason Ladd, left, and other members of the Under the Bridge Ministries pass out clothing and blankets early last Sunday morning to a group of homeless men living in the area. Once sentenced to life in prison, Ladd, and his wife Maria, have dedicated their lives to helping those who have hit a low point. “It took a seriously loving, merciful God to pull me out of the pit of hell I put myself in,” he said. “...I just knew I was supposed to serve in some kind of way.”

Under the Bridge Ministries

Under the Bridge Ministries is an organization dedicated to meeting people's physical needs while also offering them hope and encouragement. Visit the website or contact Jason Ladd 678-776-8635 or

The giving spirit

This holiday season, The Times spotlights a person or couple who give of themselves to help others in the community. Today, meet Jason Ladd, who has been volunteering at Under the Bridge Ministries since it opened little more than a year ago in Gainesville.


When Jason and Maria Ladd were at their lowest points, somebody showed them compassion.

Today, the couple feels compelled to do the same as the work force behind the year-old Under the Bridge Ministries.

"We work because we're commanded to," Jason Ladd said.

He said he spent 17 years in a "hell" he created for himself abusing drugs and alcohol.

He tried rehab. It didn't take. Not until he got handed a life sentence in prison for drug trafficking did Ladd say he found his way out.

He said a local judge called him out of the prison cell a couple of hours after his sentencing hearing and told Ladd he was giving him one last chance by allowing him to spend his life sentence on probation.

As soon as he got out of jail, Jason said he and his sons bought biscuits and took them to the local homeless and other poverty-stricken communities.

Handing out the biscuits, Jason and his sons told the recipients that God loved them, and so did they.

It was the first step toward a Christian-based ministry for the down and out.

"It took a seriously loving, merciful God to pull me out of the pit of hell I put myself in," he said. "...I just knew I was supposed to serve in some kind of way."

So he started Under the Bridge Ministries, with a goal to meet people's basic, physical needs by providing them with food and clothes and offering them an insight into the Christian faith, which Jason said saved him from his addictions.

On a regular basis, Jason travels to various tent cities and homeless communities, sharing a meal and his faith.

Maria Ladd started out just supporting Jason and his sons' efforts. But the more she found herself in the trailer parks and apartment complexes she spent her childhood in, Maria said she felt drawn to the children.

"I lived in those neighborhoods when I was a kid here in Gainesville," she said. "I have a heart for all these kids."

Her father was an alcoholic and a drug addict, rendering him incapable of taking care of Maria as a child.

But a foster parent reached out and showed Maria the love she felt she'd been missing.

She said the work she does with Under the Bridge is her way of giving back the love she received as a lost child by the people who took her in.

If you ask her what her "work" is, Maria will use the word "love."

"It's more of a joy and a peace to be able to love on these people and these children," she said. "Sometimes, it's all someone needs."

And because someone came along to give them a hand up, Maria and Jason feel compelled to do it for others.

"There's freedom in Jesus," Jason said. "The places that we go, people are down. The only thing that lifted me out of that was the love of Jesus."


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