VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL) — In south Georgia, a local ministry is not only feeding the community but teaching people the skills they need to Rebound.
Living Bridges Ministry in Valdosta describes itself as a "hopeful solution" to some of the statistics in Lowndes County.
One of those statistics is hunger.
Darcy Gunter, the director of adult and children's ministries at Living Bridges Ministry, says 22,000 people in Lowndes County go to bed hungry every night. Gunter and her staff and volunteers are doing something about it.
"She was the only person in the area that remembered that when children are hungry, their parents are as well," said Rosalind Neal, a volunteer with Living Bridges Ministry.
The ministry began giving back seven years ago with their Vacation Bible School at the Park where they supplied activities, fun, and meals for the families who attended.
"A lot of times the summer feeding programs are for the kids that are out of school, but they don't feed the whole family so that made us unique," Gunter said.
Years into their community outreach, the ministry realized the same families in need were always in need.
So, instead of just handing out, they started handing up.
"We started a program called Transformations," said Gunter. "We spent 15 months with individuals working to get them out of poverty and into self-sufficient living."
They focused on budgeting skills, priorities, time management, how to build a resume, and interview for jobs.
"When they leave our program, they have a skill-set and a job and are working there way into a self-sufficient living," Gunter said.
When COVID-19 hit and kids were suddenly out of school, the ministry realized that many parents wouldn't be equipped to handle it.
"So we stood up a sack lunch line and again began serving lunch to the whole family," said Gunter.
The lunch line served over 700 people in one day, a huge uptick since the pandemic started.
"People who got a stimulus check, its probably gone by now and some of the other feeding sites that were subsidizing are consolidated or closed," Gunter said. "The soup kitchen in town is closed so the homeless population is being served by us."
"Just when parents thought it was time to give up and throw in the towel because they didn't know how they were going to make ends meet, look at how she has bridged the community together," Neal said.
Living Ministry says they couldn't do what they do without the support of the community.
If you and your family need immediate help in south Georgia, there are more resources available.
In response to COVID-19, Second Harvest of South Georgia has opened an emergency Helpline where you can get assistance with things like food insecurity, rent assistance, and mental health services.
The helpline is available Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. That number is 888-453-4143.
The United Way of South Georgia is also offering a variety of community resources. Their number is 229-242-2208.