At exactly twelve o’clock, men and women of all ages and ethnicities shuffle into the dining area of Good News at Noon for the lunchtime meal.
They are all welcomed with open arms and zero judgement from the volunteers and staff, one of which offers a daily devotion while the others pass out trays laden with barbecue chicken, pasta and salads.
The routine is a regular one at Good News at Noon- seven days a week, all are welcome to partake in lunch at noon and a dinner in the evening. The meals are a continuation of the food ministry Gene Beckstein and his wife Margie started out of their Gainesville home 34 years ago.
While the meals are a large part of Good News at Noon, the nonprofit also focuses on providing services for homeless men in the community. Some of these services include showers, clothing, medicine and a transitional shelter for those who have nowhere else to sleep.
Nonprofit staff also help these men obtain documents necessary for employment, such as a Social Security card, state-issued identification and birth certificate.
“[The purpose here] is building community amongst a group of people who relationships have fallen by the wayside for the most part and helping provide dignity and grace in their lives with the hope of seeing reconciliation and restoration as a result of that,” said Ken Gossage, director of Good News at Noon.
Gossage said Good News at Noon staff serve approximately 100 people everyday, either through meals or other services. He added that the homeless community is larger in the Gainesville/Hall County area than many people realize.
“It’s very obvious on the West Coast, probably in cities like Atlanta, how homelessness is just becoming a huge issue. Obviously it’s not as big in a town Gainesville’s size or the Hall County area, but you’d be surprised how many homeless there are and it’s certainly growing,” said Gossage. “If we don’t go ahead and start doing the right things, paying attention to that as a social issue, before we know it, it could get rapidly out of control.”
In order to continue meeting the needs of the local homeless community, Gossage said the nonprofit is planning to expand and build a new location. This new building will include space for a transitional shelter for women, in addition to the existing transitional shelter for men.
Local businesses, individuals and local churches donate food and other supplies to Good News at Noon on a regular basis, according to Gossage. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many volunteers from these organizations would often come to distribute the supplies. Now, the volunteer pool is smaller, but they work longer periods of time.
“God kind of blessed us with a new model where we now have probably about 15 or 20 that are serving anywhere from four to 10 hours a week, so it’s really been helpful, they’re like an extension of our staff,” said Gossage.
Despite the number of COVID-19 cases in the community throughout the pandemic, Gossage said none of the homeless who have entered Good News at Noon have tested positive for the virus.
While staff and volunteers at Good News at Noon continue to adjust and make changes as needed, they have not lost sight of the intentions Beckstein had when he started the ministry and would deliver “good news at noon.”
“We’re providing a lot of services during the day, but we always make the effort to connect that to God’s love, God’s grace for everybody, so that they don’t just think that there’s a bunch of people here doing good deeds,” said Gossage. “It’s not really us, it’s really God that’s providing all of this and we try and make sure they understand that connection.”
For more information about Good News at Noon, visit their website goodnewsatnoon.org. The nonprofit is located at 979 Davis Street in Gainesville. All are welcome.
For Goodness Sake is a monthly series highlighting non-profits in the North Georgia area. Have a non-profit that you would like to see featured? Email the author at [email protected]!