Community Government

Augusta mayor, commissioners among those honoring Dr. King by serving others

LaDonna Doleman asked everyone to gather in a circle.

It was a large circle especially for a Monday as volunteers from multiple groups including some Augusta government officials, turned out at the Golden Harvest Food Bank’s Master’s Table for a day of service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

“Mayor Johnson, I’m so proud to have you come here,” she said to Augusta Mayor Garnett Johnson who was among those volunteering.

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He could talk politics, she said, but as long as he was in her territory, she let him know that she was the “mayor of food in Augusta.”

Some of the volunteers at the Golden Harvest Food Bank’s Master’s Table Soup Kitchen Monday. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

“We serve 5,000 trays here a week,” she said. “That’s a 23% increase from where we were last year.”

The face of hunger has changed in the past four years. Prior to the pandemic, the soup kitchen served primarily people in the downtown Augusta area, but not anymore. People come from all over the area to the “largest soup kitchen in Georgia.” As food prices continue to rise, she doesn’t see it changing. And people aren’t turned away.

On Monday, the mayor and his wife, Toni Seals-Johnson, plus Augusta Commissioners Sean Frantom and ,Tony Lewis, members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church,  the Augusta Chapter of the University of Georgia Alumni Association were among the volunteers.

“A day of service is so fitting,” said Johnson, who recalled being in ceremonies and commemorative services for most of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2021.

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Giving back is important, he said, and he sees the holiday’s message of day to serve as setting a precedent for his time as mayor. It won’t be the only one of its kind.

Clinton Conoly prepares a bag for a person utilizing Project Refresh. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

Some of the volunteers gathered inside to feed those who came to the center for a meal.

Outside, others assisted with a volunteer-run organization called Project Refresh, which provides a shower, clean clothes and hygiene items to homeless people.

Tracy Showman, Project Refresh’s secretary, said the non-profit began after one of its organizers heard of a similar program in Houston.

Four friends got together in January 2020 and started the process. The pandemic delayed their progress some, but they raised $60,000 for the mobile shower unit and have offered the service since February 2022.

Showman said they provide the mobile unit on the second Saturday each month at the soup kitchen and the third Thursday at GAP Ministries. They add other days as they can. It takes about eight people to help with the entire process.

Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at Subscribe to the newsletter here.

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