AUGUSTA (AP) — Felisha Westall stands in the empty living room that belongs to her friend, Larry. Months ago, he was a felon living on the streets, and now he is a man of God with his own apartment.
As she thinks of what he’s been through, she feels nothing but pride in how far he’s come and the vibration of her phone as supporters call in to offer help.
Matheny is one of the thousands Westall has assisted with her ministry, Walking Tall. The ministry is based in and is the only place in the community where the less fortunate are able to receive free, professional haircuts. Westall started doing free haircuts on the streets five years ago at the urging of friends, and the practice has grown into a multifaceted safe space for the homeless.
“Walking Tall ministries was founded by me by starting out with street haircuts for the homeless, and then it grew to an RV that had a shower so they could take a shower and get a change of clothes and get a haircut, and that grew to this ministry, which has so many more levels,” she said.
Those levels include such services as a free hair salon, a daily soup kitchen, a food pantry, a clothing closet, hygiene products, an indoor shower and the only public outdoor bathroom in the area. The ministry also offers several programs centered on rehabilitation and counseling for the homeless and drug addicts.
The work programs and church study are led by Zak Moyer, who assists in job training with his construction company, Moyer Drywall. As a former addict, Moyer provides a unique point of view and ability when interacting with drug addicts.
“I always try to lead the people, to lead them with hope, that, ‘Hey, I was right where you are right now,’ because nine times out of 10, whatever they’re on, I’m aware of and I’ve been through it and I can show them not just the biblical way out of it but a physical way to deal with it and to come off what they’re on,” Moyer said.
Before finding Walking Tall, Larry Matheny was barely surviving on the streets after serving 21 years in prison. Now, he’s a godly man with a roof over his head, and he says it’s because the ministry saved his life.
“(Westall and Moyer) helped me get counseling. I got a mental health counselor now; I got a vocational rehab counselor,” Matheny said. “Plus, they helped me get started back with my food stamps and everything, and through them, by giving me clothes, and encouraging me and showing me that God loves us.”
In addition to helping Matheny find an apartment, the ministry also helped him find furniture and supplies from donors to turn the apartment into a home. Matheny described how Walking Tall ministries is different, more personal, partly because unlike other homeless organizations, the ministry receives no aid from the government or corporate partners.
Westall likes it that way.
“Our whole ministry has grown from the very first day through Facebook, from me saying, ‘If I do this for free haircuts, who would come?’ to now, when I have a need, I just post it on Facebook,” she said. “We’re the only independent, faith-funded, free haircut ministry that I know of.”
Though she is happy with an independent ministry, Westall still happily accepts any support through donations of supplies and finances as well as volunteers from the community. She hopes to raise enough money to be able to expand, add another location and turn the ministry into a shelter where the homeless can sleep.
Westall still travels, offering haircuts and other assistance in her RV. She is currently raising money to go to New York for Christmas to give free haircuts and Christmas presents to the homeless.
Information from: The Augusta Chronicle , http://www.augustachronicle.com
An East Point man recently convicted of conspiring to steal guns from federally licensed firearms dealers and to possessing stolen firearms is scheduled to be sentenced on January 6 at 1 p.m. in U.S. District Court in Rome.
According to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Byung J. “BJay” and information presented in court:
Demontra Sharod Lucear was part of a seven-member crew that participated in a series of burglaries between October 2015 and December 2015. A total of 10 gun store burglaries took place during this time, including one at Clyde Armor in Warner Robins on Nov. 4, 2015.
In that particular burglary, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Keen said 24 guns, two cash boxes and $300 from the cash registers were stolen. The burglars also caused $4,000 in property damage to the store.
During his trial Lucear’s attorney, Chris Twyman, argued in court that while Lucear might have participated other burglaries, he did not enter Clyde Armor. He went on to state that the question is how, and to what extent, Lucear was involved in the gun thefts.
“Burglarizing gun stores and trafficking those stolen guns to convicted felons and other prohibited persons presents a serious threat to our community,” said Pak. “Thanks to our federal, multi-state, and local law enforcement partners, Lucear and his co-defendants are off the streets and can no longer continue their criminal enterprise.”
In all, the crew stole 132 firearms which they later sold to others. Officers recovered several of the firearms during arrests.
Lucear’s co-defendants previously pleaded guilty as follows:
♦ On July 18, 2016, Eric Jerome Moore pleaded guilty to theft of firearms from a federally licensed firearms dealer and to being a felon in possession of a firearm;
♦ On June 24, 2016, Jakeisia Miller pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal firearms;
♦ On July 25, 2016, Dillon James Leborgne pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal firearms, and theft of firearms, from a federally licensed firearms dealer;
♦ On August 1, 2016, Jacquez Miller pleaded guilty to theft of firearms from a federally licensed firearms dealer;
♦ On November 14, 2016, Jameel Yusuff Drinkard pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal firearms, and theft of firearms, from a federally licensed firearms dealer, and to being a felon in possession of a firearm; and
♦ On November 17, 2016, Terry Eugene Brown pled guilty to conspiracy to steal firearms, and three counts of theft of firearms, from a federally licensed firearms dealer.
With the fall semester winding down and the holiday season approaching, Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s Food Pantry has seen a growing number of students stop by to receive food items ranging from everyday necessities to breakfast foods.
“The word has gotten out and moving forward we are hoping for growth,” Madison Hopper, Special Populations assistant said. “There are no income requirements and no current GNTC student will be turned away.”
The Food Pantry at GNTC is maintained by the Special Populations staff who see about 20-25 students per week drop by on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9-11 a.m. The pantry is located in the J Building on the Floyd County Campus and is available to all currently enrolled GNTC students, Hopper said. Eventually as the program grows, the Special Populations department would like to see the pantry expand to other GNTC campuses.
The idea was brought to GNTC by Sonya Briscoe, director of Special Populations. Briscoe saw other colleges with similar programs and decided to start a pantry on the Floyd County Campus. A partnership with Action Ministries Northwest and the GNTC Foundation keeps the pantry up and running, Michelle Beatson, Foundation Administrator at GNTC said.
“We want to make sure our students are taken care of both inside and outside of the classroom,” Beatson said. “We are proud of the hard work the Special Populations department does in maintaining the pantry and to Sonya Briscoe for bringing the program to the college.”
According to Hopper, the Special Populations department is working on a clothes closet in the J Building which will complement the pantry. Students will be able to borrow clothes for interviews or just everyday clothing.
On top of providing clothing and food for students, Special Populations has been working to bring other resources to GNTC’s six other campuses through various programs. A recent program, Free Diaper Day, was sponsored by the department and made Amerigroup resources available to GNTC staff, students and faculty as well as the general public.
“We try to help students be as successful as possible,” Hopper said.
During the spring semester, Special Populations will continue to bring resources to GNTC students through different programs and workshops for Spanish speakers, single parents as well as any GNTC student who wishes to participate. The department will also offer career shadowing and a budget workshop at a to be determined date.