GREENBRIER -- Local churchgoers are taking advantage of the summer months by giving back to their community through a movement they call Hands and Feet in the Heat.
With weekly attendance fluctuating heavily during the summer as several families take off for vacation, Greenbrier Nazarene Church Pastor Steve Thrasher said the church's members have banded together to carry out a number of service projects during the hot break as a way of saying "Thank You" to the community. These missions are carried out on Wednesdays, which typically would be the church's Bible Study night.
"We just want to love on our community and to give back," he said Wednesday during a cookout focused around serving city employees and Greenbrier first responders. "We're calling [this mission] Hands and Feet in the Heat, that's been our hashtag for all of our events. We're [acting as] the hands and feet of Jesus during the summer."
A large crowd of city employees along with Greenbrier dispatchers, policemen, volunteer firemen and local paramedics gathered outside city hall shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday as Greenbrier Nazarene Church members thanked them for their service and provided dinner.
Before these service members and their families lined up to thankfully grab a quick meal, Thrasher had the group gather on the lawn so he could collectively give thanks on behalf of the church and other Greenbrier residents. Following a short prayer, the dozens of city employees and first responders along with their families lined up for dinner, with each city employee, police officer, firefighter and paramedic receiving a cup filled with candy and other thank yous from the church.
Mayor Sammy Joe Hartwick said it was humbling for the church to think of and give back to these employees.
"They're such a great crew," he said of the church members who arranged the cookout. "We're fortunate to have a lot of great churches in town."
It's a special feeling to know the residents out in the community appreciate the work city employees and local first responders do, Hartwick said, nothing that while the gesture may seem small, it meant a great deal to all who attended.
"People often don't realize what these employees go through," he said. "Something little like this just makes their day and being able to invite their families to come along, that's big too. Even though it's something simple as [a cookout], it lifts [our employees'] morale. We can't express how much we appreciate all our area churches."
Living and thriving in a small town gives for the opportunity for thoughtful gestures to leave a lasting impact on many residents.
Hartwick said he also wanted to take a moment and thank LifeSong Baptist Church for allowing local seniors to use the church's fellowship hall to eat their meals as the Senior Citizen Center has been under construction over the past few months.
Wednesday's give-back cookout was one of many service projects Greenbrier Nazarene Church members have on their agendas for the summer.
Last week, the group helped package 200 emergency food kits for the Conway Ministry Center to hand out to hungry families and individuals in need.
Other summer service projects the church has planned include creating gift baskets for local middle school teachers and holding a luncheon for the educators, preparing and delivering home-cooked meals to families in need at the church, holding a volunteer luncheon for the church's volunteers who make all these events and daily duties possible as well as a back-to-school bash for the church's youth.
"Basically, we had talked about wanting to do something this summer on Wednesday nights when we would normally have our Bible study and activities for the kids," Thrasher said. "This is all a way for us to do something for the community and help others."