LaGRANGE — It has been said there are angels that walk among us disguised as people.
It seems some of those angels have been walking beside the residents at the Stay Lodge Extended Stay in the 1600 block of Whitesville Street.
For the past three months, Troup Transformation, a local organization that works to unite the Christian community and strengthen the church throughout the county, has delivered boxes of food to folks who need it the most.
This month, the group bought 600 pounds of food for $100 from Feeding the Valley. Wanda Walker with Troup Transformation said typically that much food would cost at least a $1,000 in a grocery store.
Folks filled boxes full of canned vegetables and fruit, healthy snacks, peanut butter and jelly, paper towels, diapers, baby food, frozen pizzas and rotisserie chicken for families with children. The organization then goes door to door and delivers the care packages to residents.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Cathy Thomas, general manager of Stay Lodge LaGrange. “Some people actually cry. Some are actually in disbelief that someone would actually do something in the name of Jesus without any expectations. Some people here have been so hurt … but Jesus loves everyone equally.”
Thomas said the lodge has 109 rooms. About 50 percent of her clientele live there full time, many of them are elderly living on a fixed income or folks living paycheck to paycheck or even job to job.
The general manager has been with the Stay Lodge for 15 years and said she has seen it all — the good, bad and the ugly.
“A lot of times this place gets a bad rap,” Thomas explained. “But the truth is, this place helps a lot of people … I just can’t make myself leave, because I know just a hug, a kind word or a job lead can make all the difference in the world to someone.”
A positive impact Thomas and others saw firsthand on Thursday.
One of those boxes the group lovingly packed together was for a man who came into the front office that morning to pay his bill. After making the payment, he told Thomas he only had $2 left in his pocket to eat with for the rest of the week.
Thomas knew just how to help the man out and promised to bring him a box of food and necessities later that day.
“He cried,” said Thomas. “He said he didn’t expect anyone to help him. He didn’t know what he was going to do … He said, ‘God is everywhere. God is even at the Stay Lodge.’”
Thomas, Walker and Nancy Wardlaw, all with Troup Transformation, met the man, Chris Kelly, face to face when they delivered the box to his room.
“I don’t want to cry again,” Kelly told the ladies with a smile. “You all don’t know just how much this means to me … just how much this blesses me. I was just praying this morning because I didn’t know what I was going to do … and God blessed me with you all. Thank you so much.”
He then gave each of the ladies a big hug.
“I like to meet the people,” explained Wardlaw. “Just to show them that we care and not that we’re just putting food together and throwing it at them.”
Kelly is not the only one grateful for the food boxes. More residents said they were amazed not only by the donation, but by Troup Transformation’s outpouring of love and support for complete strangers. These folks asked to remain anonymous.
“It (food boxes) really helps me get by,” said one client. “I am grateful for their loving kindness and their works through Jesus. Their love and support has given me more than just food for my belly, but hope and happiness in my heart. It reminds me there are good and Godly people in this world.”
“My family and I greatly appreciate the food assistance from God’s helpers,” replied another resident. “It has saved us and been a great blessing.”
Walker said the organization has been handing out the food boxes at the Stay Lodge once a month for about three months. So far, they have helped an estimated 23 to 30 people each month.
“We want to also minister to people here and form relationships with people here,” Walker explained. “When we started it, we were just trying to get the food out. But now we know there is so much more need … we’re not really reaching the full need that’s here.”
Troup Transformation is looking for more churches, groups or members of the organization to form a similar program and adopt other areas across the county that are also food insecure.
Anyone wanting more information can contact Wanda Walker at 706-402-5634.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.