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With ‘One Heart’, volunteers host Thanksgiving dinner

By   /   December 4, 2009  /   Comments

Louis King (left) and Chester Smith share a laugh during the annual One Heart Thanksgiving celebration in downtown Albany. More than 500 people, mostly homeless, were served by Christian motorcylists and other volunteers.

Doctors and working people and low-income families with children and homeless individuals ate dinner together this Thanksgiving — an event not seen every day on the streets of Albany.

The project is one of many service activities that area Christian motorcyclists undertake in the area each year.

“The first year, 200 people were delivered food. We did it differently then,” said Chester Smith of the Albany Chapter of Heaven’s Saints, a mobile Christian ministry. “The second year, 1,000 to 1,400 were served.”

Heaven’s Saints was joined at the Thanksgiving dinner by the Joyriders – the Albany chapter of the Christian Motorcycle Association.

“We minister to the biker world,” said Tim Farmer, the Joyriders’ outgoing president.

These two groups of motorcyclists, along with volunteers and donations from about 40 Albany-area churches, served Thanksgiving breakfast and supper downtown. One Heart Inc, now with an office at K&S Motorcycles, 2305 N. Slappey Blvd., was founded by Heaven’s Saints, an international organization whose Albany organized the event for three years. Christian bands served live music while breakfast and supper were served to anyone with an appetite.

Annie King, the One Heart event coordinator, said, “I’d like to see it grow. Looked like about 300 people. Overall, including this morning, about 500.”

From very early morning those braving the cold, mostly homeless, wandered in to find hot coffee and sausage and bacon biscuits by the handful and lunch sandwiches to go. Hungry people continued arriving, listening to music while waiting for the 11 a.m. meal. The organizers forecast about 1,000 people participating, but about 500 were served this year. Several area churches offered Thanksgiving dinners during the week which may have reduced the turnout Thanksgiving day.

Louis King takes his congregation to motorcycle events, rallies, and toy runs. This Dec. 13 at Harvey’s’ eastside location at 10 a.m., King’s group and others will collect toy donations and canned food for distribution in time for Christmas. King founded the group with members who believe, “Christianity in not religion; it’s a relationship with almighty God.”

Heaven’s Saints has expanded its range of ministry to the low-income and homeless of Albany through the One Heart Thanksgiving Day supper and offers a food bank, and other services as they are able to provide. But Heaven’s Saints’ main focus is on bringing the principles of Christianity to other bikers and state prisoners.

“Some started as Hell’s Angels,” said Annie King, also a member of the Saints.

The Kings became involved to try to change the course of an “outlaws” life.

What does it take to turn the lawless to Christian values? “When you think of running from the law (and you believe) everything I loved I destroyed,” said Louis King, the group’s president and chaplain.

That’s when Heaven’s Saints tries to share their message with outlaws, and their experiences turning their own lives to Christianity. “When you’re looking at 30 years hard time, it’s an eye opener,” he said.

Heaven’s Saints offers a way out of a criminal lifestyle.

“Never judging, never condemning the individual, because God loves us he said we should share that love,” said Louis King. “To have the means to help ease need and do nothing about it.”

Community Christian organizations did something about it again this year. Thanksgiving was a little warmer than it might have been otherwise without the participation of these Christian organizations.

By Phil Hennin

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