Sparrow’s Nest was bustling on a busy Thursday morning. The food pantry, located at 2911 Altama Ave, Brunswick, was packed with volunteers shuffling carts, organizing produce and filling bags with food for those in need.
As they worked, they frequently passed a bulletin board filled with various cards featuring handwritten quotations.
“This is our board we did for volunteer appreciation week in April,” Christine Daniel, volunteer coordinator, explained. “We got some of our volunteers to write down why they volunteer.”
Almost all of the comments centered around the idea of volunteering as a way to live out their faith. “To help others in need and to glorify God,” one card read.”This is what God wants me to do,” said another. “Because I was once homeless and hungry,” was written on another, as was “the people who come in need us and we are all God’s children. Count your blessings.”
It was similar reasons that brought Linda Newberry to the nonprofit five years ago.
“I started five long years ago but then I had a grandbaby so I stopped for a while but I wanted to come back. I just wanted to help people ... and we help a lot of people,” the former school teacher-turned volunteer said.
“You get to work with such good people ... people who really care about others.”
The notion of offering service as a spiritual practice is certainly not new. It’s always been a part of the Christian tradition, as well as many other religions.
Sparrow’s Nest is just one of many missions included in a wider network of local charities managed by FaithWorks. Others include The Well, a homeless day shelter on Gloucester St.; Open Doors, a program that trains the homeless in construction; the Cancer Care Network of Hope that supports families struggling with the diagnosis of a loved one; and Samaria, a mission that seeks to break down barriers between segments of society.
Sparrow’s Nest, like many of the other charities, allows community members a space to fulfill a spiritual need for service either by donating their time, money or supplies, like hygienic products or food. These days the need for food at Sparrow’s Nest is especially great and with the coming summer months it will only increase.
“The Sparrow’s Nest food pantry shelves are sadly bare. This month alone we have helped over 320-plus families, and May isn’t over yet,” Daniel said.
“We are extremely fortunate to have such a caring and generous community contributing to the food panty; otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do what we do each day. The Sparrow’s Nest sees 30-45 families a day, four days a week, so food doesn’t stay on the shelves long.”
For the Rev. Wright Culpepper, executive director of FaithWorks, God’s directive to help others was clearly laid out in the pages of the Bible. That’s true whether it is donating food, money or time.
“Scripture speaks of bringing our first fruits and giving them to God. In Hebrew history, a portion of those gifts were to be for support of the Levites who were the priests. This was because the Levites were not given land when the Israelites returned from Egypt,” Culpepper said.
“However, most of these gifts were to be given to care for the poor, the sick, the widow, the orphan and other marginalized people. Yet, we also have the stories of the widow’s mite and the giving of turtle doves which were gifts of the poor that were given to the Temple offering.”
From the Old Testament to the New, the idea of generosity is key in living a holy life. Culpepper notes that, not only does giving help those in dire straits, it also serves the soul of the giver.
“A generous heart is a glad heart. Those who hold onto what they have live with misery. Those that share find joy. Those who share greatly find great joy,” he said.
“Scriptures help us to see that. Those who practice generosity know that joy for it bubbles up within them.”
FaithWork, the ministry Culpepper began, certainly offers an opportunity to experience that joy. But there’s no shortage of local organizations that depend on the goodness of community members for their survival. Volunteers provide the backbone and foundation of many of these.
“There are many places to volunteer in Glynn County. Every organization wants volunteers. FaithWorks focuses on the needs of people with health care or poverty related needs,” he said.
“Almost 200 people regularly help provide pastoral care at for Southeast Georgia Health System; serve those with cancer or other chronic illness; provide food to the hungry; and provide hospitality, resources, carpentry training, anger management, 12 step programs, and much more to those who are homeless. Countless others provide cooked meals, conduct food drives and more.”
There are many other organizations in the community that offer assistance in a variety of ways. The Glynn Community Crisis Center helps those in abusive relationships and Grace House aids victims of sex trafficking. The Seafarer Center who welcomes visitors to port. There are even groups with an international reach, like MAP International, which ships medicines and supplies overseas.
Culpepper says that Daniel, FaithWorks’ volunteer coordinator, can often help direct those looking to engage either with their mission or one of the other community organizations.
“Christine Daniel, director of volunteer ministries, can provide guidance to anyone who is looking for something to do. If FaithWorks does not have something that fits, she can help point anyone in the right direction. She can be reached at Christine@FaithWorksMinistry.org or 912-261-8512,” he said.
Regardless of where or how one chooses to serve, the commitment is invaluable. And not only does it benefit the organization and recipients, it benefits the giver.
“Volunteers come from all socioeconomic, racial, age, religious and political groups. Those who serve others tend to be happy people,” Culpepper said.