Volunteers serve food to 1,000 at Banquet on Bridge

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 3, 2013 

Bill Miller and his family spent Sunday afternoon standing on the Dillingham Street Bridge serving food to strangers and loving every minute of it.

"What a great day and a great way to spend it," the Columbus man said.

The seventh annual Banquet on the Bridge brings volunteers, most from area churches, together to provide food for anybody who is hungry.

About 1,000 people annually attend the giant potluck affair and event director Alli Miller, who is no relation to Bill, said she believes the number attending this year was close to that.

Hot dogs, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, beans, rice, and a wide variety of vegetables were available. The dessert line featuring cakes, cookies and pies never seemed to get shorter.

Bill Miller is a retired Army 1st Sergeant who works at Fort Benning conducting combat simulation.

He, his wife, Lisa, and daughters Katelynn, 12, and Sarah, 14, are members of MyChurch in Columbus.

He said his family likes to work at community events and he feels it is important his children participate.

"This is our fifth year," he said. "We feel we are blessed. We need to share that blessing with the less fortunate. We are not alone in this world. If you've been blessed, you have to give back. I want my children to know that."

The founder of the event was Nathan Heald, an Auburn University graduate from Smiths, Ala., who was working for the Homeless Resource Network. He no longer lives in the area.

"It started with six pots of soup and about 200 people," the director said. "We have had as many as 1,500 attend. We have a wide range of people sharing a table and eating. We have rich, poor, black, white, young, old, churched and unchurched. It is a way of breaking down barriers and talking with people you might not normally share a meal with."

Robert Campbell was enjoying a hot dog and a plate of beans and salad.

He has done maintenance work, landscaping and painting but is between jobs now.

"I came last year and liked it so I came again. I enjoy mingling with people," Campbell said. "We talk about sports, the government. Just everything. It doesn't matter where you are from or what you do. That's encouraging because we are all human."

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