By Christopher Smith
Frank Walton said he’s slept outside most of his life.
In the summer, it’s not so bad. But around Christmas, the 42-year-old Walton “wonders sometimes if this will be ... the year I finally just die.”
But Tuesday night, Walton had a reason for optimism. He received a meal at the UpperRoom mission’s Christmas dinner, which was held at the North Georgia Fairgrounds. It was the second time he’s eaten Christmas dinner courtesy of UpperRoom, Walton said, and added that he is “very thankful to my lord, God.”
And the people who volunteered with UpperRoom Mission expected to serve at least 500 people. The nonprofit organization has given warm meals to the local homeless every December for 35 years, said Wayne Snyder, a mission board member.
“Serving the homeless could be very overwhelming,” Snyder said. “But we’re able to take it on little by little because God provides for us and he helps us to keep focused on the mission. People don’t realize that some of these things happen right next door, but they do. You don’t necessarily have to go to overseas to see the need to help the local homeless.”
It’s a need that might be growing, Snyder said.
“Last year we had about 450 people attend the dinner,” he added. “This year we planned to have enough food for about 500 people. We really had to scrape the barrel to feed everyone, but it’s good. It’s refreshing to see so many people eating.”
People such as Angela Ryers.
“I’ve not had a great life,” Ryers said. “But right now, I’m thanking God. This (the dinner) is overwhelmingly beautiful.”
Snyder says he is also thankful, especially for “local churches and individuals for generously providing both food and time.”
“For these we are greatly appreciative,” he said. “Even though the mission operates on a very small budget per year, based on the number of people we serve we can always use financial help.”
UpperRoom started in the early 1970s when Frank Callaway Adams sought to provide service to the local homeless and to “show obedience” to Matthew 25:35-40. The mission headquarters are based at the building under the Waugh Street bridge. Snyder said the mission is looking at plans to eventually renovate the building.
To donate to the mission, individuals can send tax-deductible contributions to The UpperRoom Mission, P.O. Box 4120, Dalton, GA 30720.