published: Friday, November 30, 2012
Local church provides dinner for homeless, needy families
ROXANNE BROWN | Staff Writer
Cathedral of Power International Church took on a whole new look and feel Tuesday night when it was transformed into an elegant dining hall set to feed 200 of the area's homeless residents and families in need of a helping hand.
There was a makeshift kitchen and serving area, servers in uniform, tables adorned with festive tablecloths, crystal pitchers and food galore, along with roses at the entrances and tea light candles floating in water at every table for a little ambiance.
As attendees arrived, they were formally seated and treated to entertainment by local church groups until they were served plates overflowing with turkey, ham and all the Thanksgiving meal fixings.
"We just moved here and didn't have anything set up. We were calling around to see where we could go for a little help, and talked to someone at New Beginnings who told us about the dinner so we came," said Matt Murray, there with his wife Shannon and two young sons.
According to Matt, he recently moved his family to Clermont from Orlando.
New Beginnings of Lake County, a homeless shelter in Clermont, brought their clients to the dinner.
The dinner however, was open to anyone in the public who needed some holiday cheer.
"It's a huge blessing for us and for the entire community. But I don't think people realize how serious the situation is getting with homeless and families close to it," Smith said.
Smith, whose organization gives out food and clothes every Saturday in Clermont, said more and more people arrive every week, desperate for whatever help they can get.
"You can look around and see how big the need is."
All the volunteers, a few dozen at the very least, were either members of the host church or of churches throughout Lake County who arrived to lend a hand upon hearing of Pastor Chris Walker's first ever effort to serve a Thanksgiving meal for so many in the community.
"We think this is awesome. By them (COPI) doing this, it will open up Clermont as a whole," said Betty Larode, a volunteer who arrived from One in Christ Ministries to help.
Pastor Jose Elias Gonzalez, who leads the Love and Living Hope church in Four Corners, said he's been involved with similar events like this in Orlando in the past and was recently questioning whether the need existed in Clermont and its neighboring communities.
"We found out Pastor Walker was doing this great effort and decided some of the folks from our church should be here to as helping hands. We showed up ready to serve in any way needed," Gonzalez said.
When the night was said and done, Walker estimated volunteers from Cathedral of Power, Love and Living Hope, Family Christian Center, Frontier Church of Leesburg, Faith on Fire and One in Christ Ministries, served about 120-130 people in all.
On Monday, Cathedral of Power, in partnership with Asher's Church of Clermont, also gave away 400 turkeys to needy families in South Lake County.
Earlier in the year, Walker was also part of a gas giveaway to help struggling families in the area.
"We were hoping for more people Tuesday, but we served every person who walked through our doors," Walker said. "Everything went great and I think everyone was pleased."
Walker, who told attendees he has "a heart for the homeless," explained how as a single father with two children in his 20s in Clermont 18 years ago, he too, was homeless.
"The homeless issue is very big and is one of the passions I have and one that I have passed along to the members of my church," he said.
Walker said he hopes this event becomes an annual tradition.