As the clouds of Hurricane Dorian loomed, many were looking for a place to ride out the storm. There were also those who put the safety of others ahead of their own.
In addition to first responders and local officials, the staff and volunteers of FaithWorks were actively taking steps to ensure the most vulnerable in the community were safe.
FaithWorks, a Christian-based organization that provides various outreach programs, helped arrange transportation for the homeless outside of The Well, a day shelter in downtown Brunswick.
The Rev. Wright Culpepper, executive director of FaithWorks, said the group was able to help more than 50 people who wanted to escape the hurricane’s path.
“FaithWorks, with assistance from Gateway, helped 57 people who currently stay at The Well get to the transportation buses provided by Glynn County,” he said.
“Additionally, a number of people who live alone and have health issues were visited to make sure that they had plans and to offer assistance.”
As with all of the programs FaithWorks offers, there were challenges. But the volunteers tread lightly, gently offering aid wherever they could.
“Many refuse to leave because they believe that ‘if it is my time, then it is my time,’ but others are grateful for any assistance,” he said.
“There are a lot of moving parts to a situation like this, and I truly believe that God lays on the hearts of many people the call to help bring order out of chaos. We pray for everyone’s safe return.”
The journey through the storm is a good metaphor for what FaithWorks provides as a whole. The nonprofit offers programs that assist those traveling through their most difficult days. In addition to The Well, there’s the Cancer Care Network of Hope, which links patients and families with much needed resources and outreach programs. They operate Sparrow’s Nest, a food bank located on Altama Ave. in Brunswick, as well as Samaria, an initiative that breaks down barriers between different groups of people. Open Doors assists the homeless by teaching them construction skills to help them transition out of their current situation.
For Culpepper, these programs are pathways for helping those who have come across barriers on their journey through life.
“We are all on a journey, and it is sometimes difficult to understand the place others might be on their journey. Unfortunately, erroneous judgments can be made. Those who have never been homeless cannot possibly understand what it is to be homeless,” he said.
“Those who have not experienced chemotherapy cannot possibly know what it feels like when the doctor says the cancer has returned. The rich don’t understand poverty and the impoverished don’t understand the rich. The danger is that we lump everyone together instead of valuing each person’s own journey.”
Culpepper knows first hand how much those experiencing challenges often just need a chance. A sympathetic ear or a helping hand can go along way in changing someone’s life. And he stresses that stereotypes and prejudices can keep people from discovering the beauty in others.
“There are some incredible people out there. Almost all of them are good people making a positive contribution to the world in their own way — very few are really a threat or problem,” he said.
It also provides those who are serving as “helpers” a way of living out their Christian faith.
“Some of the most incredible people in Glynn County serve on our staff or volunteer their time and talent. I am honored to be able to be journeying with them as we break down barriers and help others who may have become stuck or have lost their way. So many have turned their lives around because of the love that these people share,” he said. “Despair turns to hope and hope leads to the work needed to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.”
Those who have volunteered and given of their time will be honored during FaithWorks’ annual Celebration of Service. This year’s theme will be “Journey,” which will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Jekyll Island Convention Center. The speakers will be Vallie Collins, a survivor of Flight 1549, and local business owner Mike Murphy.
Melissa Stroud, event organizer, says that the program also serves as a way of generating much needed funds for FaithWorks.
“We hold this banquet, not only as an annual fundraiser, but to celebrate all the people, churches, and civic organizations that pour into our ministries,” she said.
“These include The Well, Sparrows Nest, Cancer Network of Hope, Open Doors, Samaria, and the Chaplaincy at the hospital. Many people don’t know that all these programs fall under the FaithWorks umbrella.”
The banquet also serves as a way of informing the community about these outreach missions and volunteer opportunities FaithWorks offers.
“We hold this banquet every year for community awareness as well as to raise money for FaithWorks,” Stroud said.
“By attending the banquet, we hope that people are educated as to the many needs in Glynn County, the problems that people face, and how we, as a faith community, can make a difference.”
For more information on FaithWorks or the Journey banquet, visit faithworksministry.org.