Prayer unites homeless and volunteers


Published: Monday, January 5, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 4, 2009 at 11:37 p.m.

Sometimes it seems as if magical moments can come at odd times.

Arupa Freeman, who operates the Home Van assistance to Gainesville's homeless residents, wrote in her newsletter of a special prayer given when volunteers were handing out Christmas stockings on Dec. 23 at the Bo Diddley Plaza downtown.

Freeman wrote that one of the volunteers announced that his daughter, a soldier in Iraq, had died and this would be his first Christmas without her.

He led the 200 to 300 people in a recitation of the Lord's Prayer in the old call-and-response style.

"Although the Lord's Prayer is part of a particular spiritual tradition, it is also the most universal of prayers: ‘Give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us...,'?" Freeman wrote. "It is said that Christmas celebrates a day when God came down to earth to live amongst us. At this Christmas gathering, standing in the December darkness reciting this ancient prayer with several hundred homeless people and their friends from all over Gainesville, I once again felt God among us."

Volunteer work: The daughter of Gainesville's City Manager, Russ Blackburn, spent some time last month getting a glimpse at her father's work.

Erin Blackburn, 17, volunteered her time for the front desk position at City Hall.

The position, which answers incoming calls and offers directions to citizens who stop in, was cut during the 2008-09 budget cut layoffs.

"We were looking for volunteers, and she was looking for volunteer opportunities," Blackburn said. "She came home telling all kinds of stories about the people she met. It's fun to see how she perceives things."

Blackburn said when the position became unpaid after October the city had a hard time recruiting volunteers.

And although recruiting has been more successful recently he said they are still in need of more people.

As for Erin Blackburn, she completed the hours necessary for her Bright Futures Scholarship and can no longer be found spending her time at City Hall's front desk.

McDonald's open again: A controversial new McDonald's restaurant, complete with big golden arches, is open at Archer Road and Interstate 75.

The company had to get some Alachua County codes rewritten to allow the retro-style restaurant because of the lighted arches that are incorporated into the building.

County staff maintained that the arches were signs and would be in violation of codes that were then in effect.

Some residents opposed rewriting the laws but several commissioners supported McDonald's.

Codes were rewritten in the fall, the old McDonald's torn down and the new old-style one built.

It opened at 6:30 a.m. Jan. 1.

"Thank you all for your hard work," construction manager Verlin Woods wrote to some county officials.

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