When Christ Central Aiken was getting started more than a decade ago, Don Tucker and others from Millbrook Baptist Church assisted with the construction of the mission site on Richland Avenue.
The following year, Tucker started volunteering for the ministry each Wednesday night and Sunday morning. Currently, he is also assisting with renovations for what will be the Hope Center in Graniteville.
Christ Central, which held its annual volunteer banquet Monday, provides an array of faith-based services for families and children in need. There are now a total of 10 mission stations, including Aiken.
"This has given me a chance to serve and give to the community," Tucker said. "(CEO) Jimmy Jones said something once and it's true. This work with Christ Central has changed my heart. The reward is working with people and seeing them as family."
The organization offers evangelism outreach, Jobs for Life skills training, women's ministries, preschool services and GED training. Christ Central opened a north campus at the River of Life Church to serve in part the families in the Crosland Park subdivision.
"So many people need food, clothing, prayer and the hope of Christ," said Christ Central Aiken director Judy Floyd. "We give them a hand up, not a handout. By helping them with education and skills, you can really lift them."
The Hope Center, now in the planning stages, will also provide many services to the Graniteville community. One major component will be a commercial kitchen, teaching people how to be chefs and how to serve in a formal dining room. Christ Central will help the graduates get jobs.
The ministry does not do formal fundraising, but has received hundreds of thousands of dollars through donations for the Hope Center. Another $300,000 is needed and for more information, Floyd can be reached at 640-1708.
Barbara Franklin started Christ Central Aiken with Floyd and is now the president for missions. She praised the volunteers for their efforts.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to make a difference and impact people's lives," Franklin said. "You see the value of that work and you stand tall so families can unite and feel better about themselves."
Volunteer Viola Holmes serves as a prayer warrior, praying and counseling those who come to the mission.
"It's great," she said. "I get a chance to talk to people about the Lord, that it's about a relationship with Jesus. It's rewarding to teach people about the kingdom of God."
Through Christ Central, said the Rev. Jimmy Jones, class is starting regardless of age.
"We provide help from birth to death," he said. "We help people get past yesterday's difficulties."
Brenda Meeks, a volunteer for the past six years, visits the mission station each Tuesday and Thursday. More recently, she has begun working with preschoolers at the north campus, joined by her mother, Ruth McAfee, 94.
"It's wonderful working with the kids," said Meeks. "Once I got their attention and love and trust, they look forward to me coming in. Mother enjoys it, too, reading books to them. They call her Mama Ruth. I'll get on the floor with the children and play games. It really does keep us young."
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.