Members of First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville and local community members came together Saturday, Aug. 18, for a day of service at the fifth annual Local Mission Expo.
Throughout the day, groups of volunteers helped out at several work projects sites, including the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, SISU, Center Point and Family Promise.
Lee Koontz, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church, was one of many stationed at the Georgia Mountain Food Bank. There, volunteers helped organize donated items including food and hygiene products before delivering cookies to Fire Station No. 1.
“Missions are usually seen as a world thing, not something that is local, but there is so much in this community that can be done and needs to be done,” Koontz said. “We have our World Mission Conference in February every year, but being able to serve the local community by helping out at all these organizations around town is great. It’s also a good way to put faces and names with community work, and for anyone who wants to get involved in the community to get involved.”
At the expo, 20 youth and children group members ages 6 to 18 were present, according to Youth Director Dallas Thompson.
“The kids are very involved in volunteer work, and we do a lot of things with them to teach them about poverty and those that are less fortunate,” she said. “They are very interested in everyone having access to a good life.”
Brady Taylor, 8, was one of the youngest helping at Saturday’s event.
“One in 5 kids in Gainesville don’t have food,” he said. “Helping them makes me feel good. I also just really like climbing in the big boxes.”
Jessica Tullar and her son Clifton, 13, have been volunteering in the community for several years and enjoy the positive impact that their work has.
“This may be the fifth year the church has done the Local Mission Expo, but they’ve been involved with world mission trips for over 20 years,” Jessica Tullar said. “Many people in the community around Gainesville and Hall County are living in poverty or don’t have access to the basic necessities that they need, and this event helps them tremendously.”
“I’ve been with my mom to deliver Meals on Wheels before, and volunteering with the church since I was 7 or 8,” Clifton said. “I like knowing that I’m helping the community, because they might not get the help they need otherwise. If we can give them food, that means that they can buy other important things with what money they have. It’s a good feeling.”
Jane Davenport, a church member and grandparent, is passionate about children and teaching them about helping in the community.
“My grandbaby is here today to help. I think local missions are so important to our kids because it teaches them compassion, and shows them that not everyone has what they need.”