James and Amy Gandy shared their stories with us to help us understand their passion for helping others. Listening to their tales, Dorri and I wondered how their ministry would spring forth from such hardship. How would two people, once addicted to drugs and alcohol, turn into a beacon for the children we saw framed in the many pictures around the room? Amy, after all, didn’t even like children, at the time, even her own? How was it possible?
But it was. The Gandys began offering after school tutoring and dinner to kids in the area. The children received dinner if they followed the rules; homework, not getting in trouble, etc. Parents supported their efforts because it meant their children had food to eat. James and Amy would meet with teachers, and with their help, saw many of their “adopted” children go from failing grades to learning to read and write. At one point, they had twenty-five children under their wing. Pictures of this group sat proudly displayed on their desk. James, along with Amy, spoke of them all with love and affection. James and Amy not only made sure the children had food and clothes, but they fed the families, as well. They took the kids on field trips and counseled them when needed.
Like proud parents, they showed us a picture of three sleeping boys in the back of a car; peaceful expressions showed on their faces. Yet, on the streets, this was not the case. The families fought against each other, and peace was far from their reach. James and Amy can be credited for the calm in their storm, along with bringing hope to many other peoples’ lives.
It wasn’t easy, and Amy was honest about how she struggled in the beginning, learning to have patience with the children. But she didn’t give up, and neither did James. “When God does something like that for you, you have to give back,” Amy says, referring to the second chance of her own. James and Amy saw these children go from failing grades to A’s and B’s, from fighting to becoming friends.
Through time, their ministry has grown into helping the homeless on the streets. Hands and Feet Foundation began in a parking lot near 103rd street in Duval County. This placement wasn’t by chance. This area suffers from the opioid epidemic—the evidence is in the staggering statistics. The article, Live Stories: Duval County Opioid Death Statistics, looks at the numbers of addictions and deaths having to do with opioids by comparing the area to the whole of Florida and the United States.
At first, they offered food and prayer. That’s all it took, and people began showing up. Maybe it was for the food, at first, but more than one of them changed their lives because of the prayer. In a weird twist of fate, Hurricane Matthew brought not only damage but business. James was able to save enough money from trimming trees to buy the small house we sat in for the interview and begin expanding his services to those in need. They appreciated the fact that the hurricane was named Matthew because Matthew 25:40 is the Bible verse that inspires them the most. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” Every day they serve food, counsel, and say prayers—the simple acts that change lives and give hope.
James and Amy personally finance most of their projects. They also receive help from the community and church groups. If you would like to become involved in their mission, click on the Hands and Feet link below to learn how.
*** Our article today is focused on one organization that helps the homeless in our area. Dorri and I have had the pleasure of learning about several. Saved 2 Serve, New Dawn Outreach, Cup of Love, and Hands and Feet Foundation are all on the front lines of helping our homeless. The COVID-19 virus doesn’t stop them from doing their work. Many of the volunteers are still out there, making sure our ‘street friends’ have food and essentials. If you are wondering what you can do, please check out the following sites and consider helping those that are doing the hands-on work with the homeless.