Thankful for our community

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members” – Coretta Scott King. And we just had the opportunity to experience the goodness of our community through our recent Spaghetti Supper fundraiser.

For several weeks in advance, we had the privilege of joining together with churches and community members to prepare for our largest fundraiser of the year, the Spaghetti Supper. We met, planned, ordered supplies, met again, ordered more supplies, picked up supplies, and picked up supplies again, all in anticipation of the grand event commencing on Monday, May 1.

The meetings, led by the infamous Bob Andriakos, longtime Spaghetti Supper leader extraordinaire, were succinct and specific. No room for nonsense! We had a meal to plan, and plan we did. It was absolutely incredible. No noodle unturned or condiment overlooked. This group was serious, thorough, and to the point. Bob will now be affectionately referred to as “Colonel Bob,” and I am buying him a gavel or a whistle, not sure which. Did I mention no-nonsense?

So, all spoons aside, the much-anticipated day arrived of The Spaghetti Supper. I have never seen so many cooks in the kitchen, and I mean that in a good way. Talk about well-oiled machines, they would be stiff competition for Chick-fil-A. Folks were everywhere, slinging noodles, slicing pies, serving sweet tea, while others were dropping checks in our mailbox. The best part was everyone was smiling and having a great time. That’s how you know it’s God! Everyone was serving and smiling!

Because no one should ever let me in the kitchen, my job was to be a runner, which meant I would run here and there delivering supplies and extending kindness, prayers, and great appreciation for the gifted ones who were in the kitchen. The awesome thing about being a runner is that I got to visit all six churches, see how everyone was set up, and meet many of the smiling saints that were giving of their time and energy to support our cause.

I have to say I was moved, and a little emotional at the camaraderie and mastery of the production styles of each church. I spoke with several folks in each church, and they were as excited as I was to be participating in such a grand event. Several were gracious enough to share with me their strategy to get the best sauce or even greater, the secret sauce. It was amazing. I think a runner has the best job.

I started running with my team (two other runners) around 12:00. We ran consistently for eight hours and then joined our staff to close out the day and determine the numbers. Like the volunteers, we were exhausted but excited to see how successful the 2023 Spaghetti Supper was. Anticipation was mounting, I felt like I was awaiting my power ball number to be called (not that I would participate in such), but I was so excited to wrap up the countdown. Everything we had worked so hard for the past couple of months was coming down to the final moments of counting. And counting. And counting. I feel the same way about math as I do about cooking.

I was already resigned that the amount of money didn’t matter. This was my first Spaghetti Supper fundraiser. I clearly had no idea what I was doing, so I had allowed myself plenty of room for error. I secretly just hoped we would be able to pay for noodles and parmesan. When the final numbers came in, our financial secretary sighed. I prayed. She smiled. We raised more money than we had ever raised before! Then we all exhaled a sigh of relief. GO GOD!!! We all agreed that He had shown up in so many ways. Since then, I’ve been trying to assess everything God was doing in this event. I want to be prepared for next year.

Clearly, God didn’t need me to know what I was doing or hold me responsible for providing a meal for anyone. He wanted to remind me what the hearts of this community look like. He wanted me to revel in how faithful He is in our weakness. He provided so many sweet faces and big ole hearts, whose main objective was to come together and raise money for individuals/families who they will most likely never meet. Incredible people spent countless hours supporting a cause that God established many years ago as a gift to this community. And the community responded with a gift of their time, energy, and efforts. What a beautiful image.

He wanted me to see and be reminded that Dahlonega is “the number one small town in the USA” because of the hearts of the people who live here. I got it. I saw it! The wealth of this community is hidden in the hearts of the folks of Lumpkin County. It has nothing to do with how many plates we sold or how much money we raised. We are blessed because so many came together and gave of themselves for folks they may never meet. Folks invested their time, so kids won’t have to experience what their parents may have experienced in homelessness. You all invested in our ability to create cycle breakers!

I saw wealth in every noodle cooker, sauce slinger, tea pourer, and pie slicer. Every one of them smiling, dressed in the fashion of whatever their particular job was. It was good. Everyone who participated was blessed. That’s how you know it is God. Only God could put you in a hot kitchen, cooking for someone you’ll never meet, and let you leave with a blessing.

So, a big thanks to all of you, whether cooking, eating, or both, we are grateful! Your hearts are what make Dahlonega the wealthiest small town in the USA.

Thanks to you all, we at Jeremiah’s Place have the privilege of continuing to raise folks up and out of the mire of homelessness. Another year of educating, supporting, and undergirding those less fortunate than we are. We came, we cooked, and we surpassed our goal. You have allowed us to continue the privilege of doing what God has called us to do in Lumpkin County, which is giving folks an opportunity to overcome homelessness.

I am ready, after my chiropractic appointment, to start preparing for next year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of our Jeremiah’s Place graduates will be standing in line, cutting cake alongside many of you who volunteered, joining in the festivities of Spaghetti Supper, paying forward the blessings you guys have provided for them. That makes me smile.

From now on, when I think about cooking (historically not a pleasant thought), I will think of all of you who supported us on this, my first Spaghetti Supper experience. Thank you from the top of our sauce pans and the bottom of our hearts. We are grateful, and the pay-out is eternal. Thank you for paying your generosity forward. We are better people for having witnessed God’s goodness through you. Thanks again.

God Bless you all, and I’ll see you all next year!

Kerri Johnson
Executive Director of Jeremiah’s Place
North Georgia Interfaith Ministries, Inc.

Thank you to our host churches:
Bethlehem Baptist Church
Dahlonega Baptist Church
Dahlonega United Methodist
Foothills Fellowship Church
Mt. Gilead Baptist Church
St. Luke Catholic Church

Thank you to our sponsors:
Woodmen Life
RRG Roofing & Gutters
Chestatee Ford
Wade Williams / Parts Brokers LLC
Ralph & Carole Prescott
Denson Martin
Dahlonega Woman’s Club, Inc.
Dahlonega Sunrise Rotary Club Foundation
Ken & JoAnne Taylor (in memory of Chad Engelbracht)
Don Kinder
Bonnie & Archie Bowling
Freddy & Shirley Welch / The Smith House
Jim & Margaret Miller
Jim & Nancy Combs
Jimmy Faulkner
St. Peter Lutheran Church
Satellite Industries
Joan & Van Bareither
Pinnacle Bank
The Men of St. Luke / The Women’s Guild of St. Luke
Karen Castleberry
Juanita Tipton
Scott & Margaret Hallam
Charles & Debbie Jones
J. Douglas Parks
James Anderson / Anderson Roofing & Sheet Metal
United Community Bank
Mike Turner / CAA Software Inc.
Jim & Bronda Curtis
ALT Ventures LLC
West Flooring
Anderson & Underwood Funeral Home
St. Vincent de Paul
Alfred Chang
Steve Davis Towing & Recovery
Steve & Marcy Quehl
Johnny & MaryJo Moffat
Anne Green Small Group
Anthony & Susan Lancaster
David & Bobbie Lancaster
Steve & Sally Barnum
Robert & Suzanne Grove
Robert Conaway
Kathy Sisk
Henry & Kathy Davis
Dahlonega United Women of Faith / Dahlonega United Methodist Women
Sandra Rich
Betsy Lauricella
Pat Sandhagen
TEL Class at Dahlonega Baptist Church
Patricia Cowart
Allyn & Kerri Johnson
Giovanni Leonardo