North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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February 6, 2013

Doing Unto Others: Gardendale-Mt. Vernon United Methodist members serve the homeless at Jimmie Hale Mission

GARDENDALE — From all appearances, the activity of a group of local volunteers is a labor of love.

A mission team from Gardendale-Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church served supper to about 150 homeless men at the Jimmie Hale Mission in Birmingham on Monday night — something they do once or twice a quarter.

There were smiles on all of their faces as the men and women dished up hot dogs, beans, chips, tea and huge chunks of cake.

“Every time is a different experience,” said Jim Jeffreys, who heads up the volunteers. They have been serving food and leading worship at the Jimmie Hale Mission for eight years.

“I feel like God has blessed me and I want to give back,” Jeffreys said. “We’re helping in a small way, but the guys are so grateful.”

Judy Huff, who helped serve tea to the men, agreed.

“They are so appreciative,” she said. “Almost every one of them comes up and thanks us. You get a blessing you’ll never get anywhere else.”

One of the volunteers, Doug Wells, can identify with some of the men at the shelter. Before praying over the evening meal, Wells told the room full of men that he himself is in recovery, with eight years of sobriety under his belt — an admission that drew loud applause from the crowd.

“When I see these guys, I see a lot of hope and I see God’s plan for each one of them,” Wells said. “This is just such a good place. I’m so thankful there’s a place for men to get a second chance, and a third chance and a fourth chance.”

The church members clearly benefit personally from their volunteerism, and the church body is one that needs encouragement. Less than a month ago, the church’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Terry Greer, was charged with murder and attempted murder as he allegedly shot his wife and daughter at their home, which was the church parsonage. His wife, Lisa Greer, died of her wounds.

Greer had been at the church only a few months, and for much of that time he was not in the pulpit due to health issues.

The church is moving forward, however, in part by reaching out.

“The more you take the focus off yourself and (put it) on others, that’s healing,” Jeffreys said.

Bonnie Hendrix, director of advancement for the Jimmie Hale Mission, said volunteers like the group from Gardendale-Mt. Vernon are a tremendous benefit to the men who are served by the mission, and are a help to the mission itself.

She said members of the Gardendale team not only serve the men food, but they visit and talk with them, and share their own lives and stories with those in the shelter.

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