BRADENTON, Fla. (WWSB) - “We take for granted when we go home and cuddle up in our warm beds at night and we don’t think about what it’s like when you don’t even have a place to go to the restroom,” said Tonia Johnson.
It’s that compassion that has led Johnson to oversee Freedom Gathering on 14th Street West in Bradenton, a place helping those in need with food and fellowship. A lot of people were on hand Friday night for the free Thanksgiving dinner featuring all the holiday favorites. They also provide free, healthy meals every Thursday at 6pm and also lunches to go on other days of the week.
“I just love everybody and they seem to love us they appreciate us, we try to give them hope and integrity,” said Johnson
In addition to the free meals, First Church of the Nazarene provides clothing for people to pick out. Johnson says the people they serve are anybody from the homeless to someone barely making ends meet. Susan Edwards had recently lost her nursing job following health issues that now has her in a wheelchair most of the time. On this Thanksgiving, she says she’s very grateful for Freedom Gathering.
“What brings me here, the gathering of the people, the spiritual message I receive here, they have helped me get through some very, very tough times,” said Edwards.
Since large amounts of people take advantage of the free meals, the gathering is held outside of their building. Shawn Yelton is getting his feet back on the ground after being homeless for awhile.
“I come here mostly for fellowshipping, it’s the holiday and I’m not with my family but I’m with this family and it’s all the same to me because it’s love,” said Yelton.
Johnson says Freedom Gathering relies on the generosity of donors and at times her own money. She’s hopeful more organizations and people will step up, not only during the holidays but year round.
“We need local support and with this you see where your money goes,” said Johnson.
For more information on Freedom Gathering, you can go to their Facebook page or call 941-954-3948.