Johnnie Skaggs said if he’s in Georgia on Thursday nights, he’s at the Good News at Noon homeless ministry in Gainesville.
And it’s been that way for 27-plus years.
“I was helping the government remodel (public housing) at that time, and I met Mr. B and have been with (Good News) ever since,” Skaggs said.
Mr. B was the late Gene Beckstein, who founded Good News in 1987, serving meals to the needy from his and wife Margie’s home. He started serving lunches at Melrose Apartments on Davis Street in 1990.
Skaggs spent at least part of this Thursday night, with about 200 others, at a Volunteer Celebration Dinner recognizing Good News’ 30th anniversary.
The crowd gathered for food, speakers and testimonials in the banquet hall at First Baptist Church on Green Street.
“I just want to echo the thanks of (other board members) for your continued service,” board chairman Joe Campbell said. “Those of you who have been doing this 20-plus years, I commend you.
“You are role models and motivation for me and those of us relatively new in our service in this ministry.”
Those with 20-plus years were recognized for their service and given the chance to speak to the crowd about their experience.
“We were blessed greatly by Mr. B,” said volunteer Sally Britt, whose service also dates to the Melrose years. “We used to love to hear him play the piano. He could really play it, too. He also taught my children in middle school, and he always had a skeleton in his room.”
Beckstein, who died in 2016, taught in Michigan and Georgia public schools, including stints at E.E. Butler and Gainesville high schools.
The crowd also had relatively new volunteers, including Yardeh Dobyne and LaRonda Passmore of Yardeh Hope 4 Life, an organization that brings awareness to a chronic condition known as abdominal adhesion.
“We just decided to do something to give back,” Dobyne said, talking about how her group connected with Good News.
“I think it’s a great organization, to give back to the homeless and less fortunate,” Passmore said. “And there are so many volunteers.”
The event had several featured speakers, including shelter manager David Keyros.
“I’m speaking for every man (at the shelter), and they’re all thankful for you,” he said.
Board member Pat England told the crowd, “The world’s a different place now and we’re learning how to lift people out of poverty.”
She referred to comments made by Bob Lupton, author of “Toxic Charity,” at the United Way of Hall County’s annual campaign kickoff at First Baptist Church on Sept. 7.
Lupton talked about how traditional ways of helping the poor through such efforts as a food pantry or Christmas gift giveaways, could be doing more harm than good.
Recipients initially may respond with gratitude, but as they return for handouts, their attitude may turn to entitlement and eventually dependency, he said.
“We have to learn how to help people see the resources they have … and how to use those strengths to help them themselves,” England said.