TIFTON -- The nearly 200 boxes of food that were prepared for needy families Tuesday for Thanksgiving are just one example of the many good things that the Brother Charlie Rescue Mission does for the community.

"We had our annual food box celebration," said Pastor William Arnold, director of the mission. "Each year we give out 250 boxes."

This year, because there were fewer families signed up for the service, only about 180 boxes were given to families. The boxes contained large amounts of food for the families, including a frozen ham, canned goods and desert.

"We didn't have as many people sign up, which is probably a good thing because there isn't as great a need," said Arnold.

Around 80 volunteers came out Tuesday morning to help the staff of Brother Charlie distribute the food. Arnold said it took two people for each family because of the large quantity of food each family received.

"They got a pile of food, each one," said Arnold.

The director said that because they did not send out as many boxes of food for Thanksgiving this year, they would likely have more food available to send out for Christmas. He said that Brother Charlie gives out more than 700 boxes of food each year.

"There's such a need that we make it a big event," said Arnold. "It's something we do year-round."

The families that received the goods had to meet requirements to receive the packages of food. The families had to receive some kind of government assistance and meet household income requirements.

Brother Charlie is a Christian ministry that has been around since 1979. It was named for Charlie Sheeman, a decorated military veteran who became a born-again Christian and wanted the money from his life insurance policy to go toward helping people.

"That was really the seed," said Arnold.

Combined with donations from many churches and individuals, Brother Charlie has become a thriving beacon for the needy of Tifton and the surrounding area. Arnold said much of the credit should go to John Gibbs, who served as pastor from 1979 to 1992.

"He really got it established in the community," said Arnold.

Along with the rescue mission, which houses up to 60 men, Brother Charlie reaches out in several ways. One program, Crossway, is a substance abuse program designed to teach discipleship. The mission also sponsors a thrift store, where people can buy items at a reduced price, with proceeds benefiting the needy.

"We have a kitchen where we serve about 4,000 plates a month," said Arnold. He said that at every meal, they serve about 40 people.

Overall, Brother Charlie gives the needy the things they need: food, shelter and clothing.

"We're not supported from federal funds," said the pastor. "We're supported from individual donations and churches."

He said that virtually all area churches contribute to the ministry, with all Christian denominations participating. Arnold said that the contributions to Brother Charlie speak well of the character of the people of Tifton.

"That shows a lot that there really are people who care," Arnold said.

"If people would like to contribute, it's a good thing, it's tax deductible and it sure would bless some people," he said.

To make donations of money, food, or time to Brother Charlie, call 382-0577.

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