Volunteers with the Second Saturday Grace, a program designed to empower area residents, will celebrate the group’s one-year anniversary Sept. 12 with a celebration in Jambalaya Park.

The three-hour celebration kicks off at 4 p.m. and will feature free jambalaya, medical check-ups by a team from Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical, counseling from Stephen Ministry, tutoring, a concert from Last Psalm, games and face-painting. Volunteers from area churches and the Salvation Army are joining forces to celebrate the program’s anniversary.

Organizers invite the public to come by to learn more about the program, which started a year ago as a ministry of First United Methodist Church in Gonzales to serve the area’s homeless.

The purpose of the program has changed over the past year, said Kimberly Schwartz, event coordinator.

The program, held on the second Saturday of every month, has expanded its mission.

“Originally, when we put Second Saturday Grace together, we were focusing on a homeless community,” she said. “What we have found is that the numbers aren’t what we thought they were. Now, we want to share God’s love and let the (whole) community know that we’re here for them, that we support them.”

On a typical night at Second Saturday Grace, a hot meal is served, games are provided, gift bags with personal care items are distributed, and a worship service follows at First Methodist Church of Gonzales.

The Rev. Mark Goins, pastor at First Methodist Church, and the Rev. Jonathan Kerne, pastor of St. James Lutheran Church, have been instrumental participants working toward a common goal, Schwartz said.

“We want to be that safe place for anybody in the community,” Schwartz said. “We ask people every month: What do you need? Let us know so we can try to help with that.”

In the past year, the church has expanded its outreach to the community in different ways.

On Aug. 1, they began “Loads of Laundry, Loads of Love,” through which volunteers distributed laundry detergent, new sheets, quarters, sandwiches and chips at laundromats around town.

“It’s just an amazing thing to let people know that we’re there. A lot of people think that they are by themselves,” Schwartz said

A transportation hotline has also been implemented at the First Methodist Church. Now, those without transportation can contact the church and get a ride to Second Saturday Grace. “It’s still a work in progress. The more we meet, the more people that come, the more we can share and learn together,” Schwartz said.

If anyone needs any additional information, they can contact the church at secondsaturdaygrace@firstumcgonzales.com .

To get a ride to Second Saturday Grace, call the transportation hotline at (225) 395-1062.