We arrived at about 8:00 and Leslie Bingham, Missions and Outreach Director, immediately put us to work setting tables. The kitchen staff (who also cook for other events at the church) and other volunteers and former guests had already been preparing the meal. When the doors opened, each guest signed in, went to the coffee room for a hot beverage, and then gathered in the dining room. Many of the guests chatted with other guests they knew and with the staff and volunteers.
What a meal they received! – Chicken and rice casserole, green beans with bacon, baked sweet potatoes, and dinner rolls. When it was time for seconds, whatever food was left from the first serving was quickly given out, save for a few green beans and rolls.
What impressed us about Grace Place? As with most feeding programs, much more happens here than feeding. For example:
- Staff help guests with issues such as transportation, clothes for job interviews, physical and mental healthcare, and getting into treatment for addiction. In addition, Galloway has a program they call “Transformation Trail” that provides income and job experience to one or two guests by hiring them as custodians or kitchen workers at the church.
Kaleb Thomson on the Roof
- Grace Place is experimenting with a rooftop garden, currently managed by Kaleb Thomson, a senior social work major from Mississippi College who is doing a practicum at Grace Place.
- One of the volunteers, Mark Wall, has been interviewing guests about their stories and taking professional portraits of them, a rare treat for guests. The pictures we saw posted on the wall at Grace Place, were truly captivating.
- We heard many success stories, guests who had turned their lives around after experiencing the love and support of Grace Place.