Valdosta’s Living Bridges programs will see changes coming in 2023

There are some changes in store for the Valdosta nonprofit ministry in the new year.
Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 5:38 PM EST
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VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - A nonprofit that is all about building bridges through several different ministries in Lowndes County says they can’t thank the community enough. However, the ministry says it does have some major changes coming to its clothes closet and food programs in the new year.

Living Bridges Ministry says they have been investing in the people of Lowndes County for nine years now. They say whether they’re teaching classes, feeding the community or putting clothes on someone’s back; they enjoy helping out their community.

WALB spoke with locals who attend some of the Living Bridges programs. They say Living Bridges is important to the community because they’re a hand-up, not a handout.

“Living Bridges Ministry is important to the community because they’re so many of us who struggle with just the basic needs in life. Sometimes we can’t control our circumstances, but we can manage what God has given us,” Noretta Boney, a student who participates in a Living Bridges program, said.

Living Bridges has a food pantry outside of their building for those in need. When COVID came, it provided emergency assistance and served hot meals to the community.

“Living Bridges Ministry was founded based on food insecurity. But then we’ve grown into a whole different educational programming. With the idea in mind that we help people stabilize their lives financially, get into stable housing, and be able to move forward,” Darcy Gunter, the executive director of Living Bridges, said.

Gunter says the volunteers and employees love serving the community and love watching people’s success grow.

“The food pantry helped me out because all of my money was going towards food. So, my car needed some maintenance, and I wasn’t able to maintain my car because I was spending it on groceries. And by them giving me some extra groceries helped me to where I can maintain my car again,” Bill Marble, a student who participates in a Living Bridges program, said.

They say they want to make sure they are helping people build their bridges and become better.

The ministry says changes are coming because they have been experiencing some theft within their programs. They say there will be changes coming to their food program and clothes closet.

“We have a client advisory board, and that advisory board has recommended a two-dollar fee. And so, for a family of five, you’re talking 10 dollars to get 50 items of clothes,” Gunter said.

The non-profit says before, people could come to their clothes closet four times a year and receive 10 items, per verified family member. They say that will stay the same, but with minor changes.

“Where things are changing is, it’s not an unlimited amount of free visits. So, if you used the clothes closet in 2022, and now you’re going to use it in 2023, by 2024, you will start paying a little bit of a fee per family member to use that clothes closet,” Gunter said.

Living Bridges is also getting rid of the First Wednesday Grocery Program. A student from a Living Bridges program says she knows change can be difficult, but the ministry’s programs are well worth these changes.

“We empower those families to come and volunteer and take classes. When they complete three hours of volunteering or three hours of classes, or a mixture of both, then they will earn a bonus grocery gift card. Currently, it can be used at Winn Dixie, and it will buy anything except for tobacco and alcohol products,” Gunter said.

Gunter says these changes will be effective Monday, Jan. 2, 2023.