A new center to help community members in need has opened on River Watch Parkway.
Grace Place Mission Center came from a vision that Rev. Bill Hilley, pastor at Grace Baptist Church of Evans, has had for 20 years, he said.
“It really has been something I’ve dreamed about,” Hilley said. “I think there’s a lot of need in the community from folks who may have an aversion to come to a church for an assistance, so we’re looking for something off site where people can come for assistance.”
Greg Mason, the local missions pastor, said the goal of the center, which opened earlier this month, is to reach people outside of the church. The need for this outreach became evident during the COVID lockdown.
“Really for me during the pandemic back in 2020, I realized kind of how fragile the community is,” Mason said. “Things can come along, the lock downs, the shutdowns, the school closings, people who are already suffering from what people call food insecurity, especially children who depend on school breakfast and lunches for a majority of their meals, something like that came along and I began to think wow, what more can we do.”
While the church does a lot to help the community through different programs, Mason said a lot of what the church did was mobile, which wasn’t the most efficient manner to handle things.
“We wanted to have a place out in the community away from the church campus for people to come to get basic needs ministry type things, food and clothing and then other things that we develop as time goes on,” Mason said.
The church found the 1,000 square foot property, located at 3560 River Watch Parkway in Martinez after looking around at other location. The Grace Place Mission Center is in Martinez, which Mason said was identified by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board as being an area in need.
“We’re Southern Baptist Church,” Mason said. “The Georgia Baptist Mission Board has identified the Martinez zip code 30907 is amazingly enough, is one of the more needy in a spiritual sense in the east central Georgia. What we want to do here, we want to offer basic needs ministry and be able to share the Gospel with people when we have an opportunity to do that, to pray with people. A couple of other things we hope to do here, in the evenings we want to try to establish some support group offerings.”
When the board states Martinez is an area in need, Mason said that means it’s “unchurched, no church affiliation.” That means despite there being a lot of churches in the area, there are a large number of people in the area who don’t attend a church of any denomination.
While in the area, Mason stated they want to go out and pray for the surrounding neighborhoods. This goal came into play when crafting the mission statement for the Grace Place Mission Center.
“There’s a passage in Matthew Chapter 9 where it says that Jesus saw the people, and he saw this as sheep without a shepherd and they were scattered and suffering,” Mason said. “That he went among them, he was teaching and preaching and healing, so he was preaching the good news of the kingdom, but he was also doing basic needs ministry. He was healing those who were sick, he was meeting their basic needs, and so we want to emulate Jesus. Anything we do here we want to exalt Jesus and the way we do it.”
Families can come twice a month to get food and clothes from the center free of charge, Mason said. There are children’s clothes and shoes, adult clothes and shoes and a variety of food, from canned goods to boxed items.
“We’re not a thrift shop operation. Everything we have here (is free),” Mason said. “That’s why we tell people they can come in twice a month. They can get a bag of food. When we have it, we have fresh meat, bread, like I said, when we have it…we’ll always have basic stuff like things that you can make meals out of, and they can get that twice a month and get a couple of outfits for the children, shoes, if we have shoes that fit their child.”
Those who would like to donate new or gently used clothes,\ or food, can bring the items by the center or to Grace Baptist Church of Evans.
As for how he feels about the center being open, Hilley said, “It’s a great relief.”
“I’m excited about it, and I think this is the start of something great,” Hilley said.
For the month of March, the center is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Starting in April after the Masters, it will be open Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information, contact Grace Baptist Church of Evans at 706-868-9729.
What a wonderful service to the community. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus!
Mira, thank you – but to God be the glory!