About 200 participants gathered Saturday morning despite below-freezing temperatures and biting winds to collect food donations and begin the new year in prayer for the third annual Walk by Faith.
"We’re here because we believe in public displays of affection," said Pastor Eric Lee of Springfield Baptist Church.
The event, organized by the Rockdale United Summit, brought together representatives from churches such as Springfield Baptist, St. Pius X Catholic Church, the Rockdale Alliance Church and various agencies and groups such as Rockdale Emergency Relief.
School Board member Katrina Young led a prayer for graduating seniors, Sheriff Jeff Wigington prayed for the welfare and guidance of deputies and public safety personnel, County Chairman Richard Oden prayed for veterans and those serving in the military, Light House Village Executive Director Jeff Beech prayed for the elderly and those with developmental and special needs, and Father John Kiernan prayed for unity in Rockdale.
The RUS presented a $1,500 scholarship for the soon-to-be born son of Pastor Vinh Tuong Do of the Vietnamese congregation of the Rockdale Alliance Church. Do was killed in a car accident in September. His wife, Chi Trang, nine months pregnant with their first child, was on hand to accept the honor, supported by about 30 members of the church.
"Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart," she said. "Pastor V.T. committed everything he did to God. He walked by faith every day... There is not a day that goes by that we do not think of him. But we still remember to praise God, who provides all our needs."
The Summit also presented the third annual L.C. Palmer Community Service award to the Helping Hands free medical clinic founders Tolbert and Janice Morris, who were taken by surprise at the honor.
"This couple has done so much to improve the lives of the citizens in this county, in the aged, the young and the disabled," said presenter L.C. Palmer.
Janice Morris, who burst into tears at the podium, said "I’m so shocked. I’m so thankful. I want to say thank you all for your support and encouragement."
"Just do one thing. Just reach back and help someone else."
Tolbert Morris added, "This is a great honor, but this honor doesn't go to us. This goes to the people that supported and volunteered in our center... Without them we could not do it."
Other public officials attending included Almond Turner of the Newton County Board of Education and state senator Ron Ramsey. Salem High School's MJROTC color guard and the Newton County High School "Sound Factory" marching band led the walk down and around Iris Drive.