It was difficult for Victory Fellowship Pastor Frank Bailey to hide his emotions when he talked about Feed the Multitudes, an event held for the first time more than two decades ago and sponsored by the church that he and his wife, Parris, founded in 1979.
“The leadership of the congregation, our members and staff wanted to sponsor a free festival with food and music that would reach out to the poorest of the poor,” explained Bailey, eyes damp with tears. “The intention was to hold it one time; it was never intended to be a long-term event.
“But 25 years ago on the Fourth of July, when that very first Feed the Multitudes was underway, the hearts of the members of Victory changed dramatically that day. And we all realized that this was not going to be just a one-time event.”
The 25th annual Feed the Multitudes will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 4 at Victory Fellowship, 5708 Airline Drive, Metairie. The event includes red beans and rice, hot dogs, jambalaya, barbecue chicken, fruit, snowballs, drinks and desserts. There will be games for children, as well as spa services including haircuts, manicures and pedicures.
Musical entertainment includes Corey Hicks, a New Orleans native, and Rashena Thomas.
And the nonprofit organization Samaritans Feet will give away 500 pairs of shoes.
“This event could not take place for all these years without the help of our partners and donors,” Bailey said. “They have helped tremendously to make this a success in so many ways.”
The honorary partners include the Salvation Army, King Construction Services, Brees Dream Foundation, John Jay Salons, Craig Borges Fish House, Maurice’s French Pastries, Greff Motors, Diversified Foods/Al Copeland’s investments, Louisiana Fresh Produce, John Henry Enterprises and Rick’s Auto.
Donors include several local restaurants and retailers, parish agencies, contractors, many private individuals and the New Orleans Saints.
Christen Collins, the youth and young adult pastor at Victory Fellowship, said last year’s event drew more than 5,000 people and organizers expect to meet or exceed that number this year.
“From year to year, we have seen more and more people come to this event,” Collins said. “And those who volunteer to help are here to meet not only the physical needs of men, women and children but to also provide something for their spirits as well. It’s a day of fun and entertainment, but also it is a chance to minister.”
Even with so many goods and services already donated for the event, Collins said items such as paper napkins and plates, soft drinks and water are still needed and can be brought to the church.
Also, volunteers are needed in a number of capacities including helping in the various tent areas, food preparation, parking, transportation and security.
A rally for volunteers will held be at 7 p.m. July 3 at Victory Fellowship.
“At the rally, volunteers will be able to choose where at the event they would like to help,” Collins said. “They will then be assigned a contact person and given a shift to work.”
Bus transportation from New Orleans will be provided to the event, with pickups scheduled for 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Drop-offs will begin after 3 p.m. The locations are the New Orleans campus of Victory Fellowship, 138 N. Broad St.; the New Orleans Mission, 1129 Baronne St.; B.W. Cooper Housing, 3200 Earhart Blvd.; Ozanam Inn, 843 Camp St.; and the Salvation Army, 4526 Claiborne Ave.
For those who live in Jefferson Parish, a bus stop is in front of Victory Fellowship. Jefferson Transit’s E-2 schedules runs along Airline Drive seven days a week. For more information on the route, call Jefferson Transit at (504) 818-1077 or go to the website www.jeffersontransit.org.
Displayed above Bailey’s desk inside his Metairie office at Victory Fellowship is a painting of the 1994 Feed the Multitudes event given to him by Lorraine Gendron. A larger version of the painting hangs inside the church’s entrance.
“It is one of my favorite pictures,” Bailey said. “Lorraine was a longtime member of our church, and she painted it shortly after the event in 1994 and gave it to me. It is a beautiful impressionist-style painting that shows different features of the event: the food lines, children playing and other activities taking place. And there are even angels flying overhead and seated at the food tables.
“When I look at this painting, I think about what a godsend Feed the Multitudes has been for us at Victory and for the entire New Orleans area as well. It continues to define our church and what, as a church community, we try to do. And that is to make a connection with people and to touch them in a positive and meaningful way.”