In 2004, a group of volunteers consisting of Tom and Debi Thomas, Jerry and June Patchell, Larry Jenkins along with Salvation Army staff members Ron Harmon and Jill McKinney set out on a Tuesday morning to serve a freshly prepared breakfast to Nashville’s homeless, calling themselves, “The Breakfast Brigade”. From serving meals at Riverfront, to the parking lot of The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center to it’s current location since 2005 in front of the East Nashville Cooperative Ministry, this outreach has always been more than just handing out food. It’s been a time of prayer and one on one ministry with those who would approach the window of our canteen in search of a hot cup of coffee, fresh eggs and fruit. Volunteers and staff will sit down with our “street family” and pray with them, listen to them, encourage and love on them by holding their hands, giving them a much needed hug and letting them know just how much they are loved by God!
In 2007, another outreach was launched by staff member Ron Harmon and volunteer Toby Smith called “Soup Wagon”, a Friday evening feeding program that provided a homemade meal to the homeless under the Jefferson Street bridge. Every week, teams of volunteers would gather under the bridge and help to serve soups, salads and various main dishes of chicken, beef and veggies. Families would get involved and bake desserts, handing out items such as cookies and brownies to our family under the bridge. We’ve also partnered with the Shade Tree Clinic who would come out and provide free vaccination and flu shots. From 2007-2008, a group of very talented musicians called Homeless Revolution got together and performed music acoustically for our “street family.” it was so neat to see folks retrieve their plates from the window of the canteen, then quickly find a place on the ground so they could eat and enjoy the show. The band even had individuals come up and sit in, singing their favorite tunes. On several occasions there was dancing which included the electric slide. I remember one of our guests sharing that this “wasn’t just a feeding, this was family, this was fun.” And above all the music, the food, the laughter and the dancing, the love of Christ is present as hands are held and needs uplifted. Tears are wiped dry and hope is shared with every single person who chooses to join us under the bridge.
Throughout the week, we are going to showcase glimpses into these two programs that continue today. We will highlight some of the amazing groups who have remained dedicated year after year in serving alongside us to meet the need. We will share pictures and video, so you can garner an understanding of this amazing ministry and we will provide you with a way to get plugged in.
“If you can’t feed a hundred people then feed just one.” ~Mother Teresa