By Elizabeth Matthews
The COVID impact was felt far and wide. During that time, three local pastors joined forces to reach people with the gospel and — at the same time — meet some physical needs in the community.
The Good News Partnership was born out of compassion for those who were hurting. Between job loss, housing loss and illness, some citizens of Fernandina Beach and Yulee needed food. And so a new ministry was born.
Beginning in 2020, Pastor Truman Blankenship (New Life Baptist Church), David Bradsher (Grace Church) and Pastor Aaron Bell (Redeemer Community Church) came together to connect with people they would not have usually connected with. According to Pastor Truman, the Good News Partnership “proclaims the gospel, prays with people and assists those in need with no strings attached.”
On the third Saturday of every month, volunteers from the church partnership assemble at New Life Baptist Church and set up the white tent that serves as donation central. Between 10 a.m. and noon, a line of cars encircles the church and each family or person in need is provided a bag of pantry staples–oatmeal, rice and beans, and other donated items such as tuna, chicken and vegetables are packed in bags, and include sweets and snacks as they become available.
The respective church congregations provide the canned goods and other non-perishable foods to complement the meals provided by Hunger Fight (https://hungerfight.org/). The local Publix contributes gift cards for groceries, and Dunkin’ Donuts in Yulee also provides fresh donuts on the morning of distribution day.
One Saturday morning, a woman came seeking assistance from the food distribution tent. Not only was her family (which consisted of her elderly mother and father, husband and two small dogs) in need of food, they also needed housing. They were out of work and living in their car. The volunteers were able to connect the family with a Jacksonville shelter after praying with them and providing the much-appreciated provisions.
There is no target demographic or face of poverty or need. Cars in the line are carrying single men who are homeless with their dogs, elderly couples living on fixed incomes or even families of 10 who just need to make it to the end of the month. Every face and story is unique. What binds them is a need for help.
Pastor David sees the ministry as, “Essentially churches that agree on the good news and how to put that belief and the gospel into action.” The churches, although denominationally different, agree that the gospel is not just philanthropy or handing out food. Their work is rooted and anchored in ministering to people, and on those Saturday mornings, they give Christ, not just food. These pastors and church members are trying to focus on the real need and complement or supplement other ministries in the area that also meet physical needs. The food distributed by the Good News Partnership is not meant to last the entire month, but beneficiaries are welcome to reach out to the churches if they need further help.
If you would like to help: The ministry needs canned goods [tuna – 5oz cans, chicken (10-14oz cans); green beans, corn, and peas (13-16oz cans); baked beans, pork & beans (13-16oz cans), chips/crackers (individual bags), and snack packs (Jell-O, pudding, fruit)]. Also grocery store gift cards and volunteers to pack the bags for distribution. Contact the Good News Partnership via email at [email protected].
The next food distribution day is Jan. 21, 2023, at New Life Baptist Church at 464069 State Road 200, Yulee, 32097.
If you would like to highlight a local ministry, email [email protected]