This year’s Thanksgiving will likely be more meaningful for several local families— thanks to community-minded people showing their love and generosity to offer groceries to those less fortunate.
Organizers of the event, “Power of Unification, Each One, Reach One,” are hoping to distribute bags of food including turkeys and other items to 100 families from throughout Milledgeville and Baldwin County on Sunday. The event will start at 3 p.m. and last until 6 p.m. Sunday at Allen’s Market in downtown Milledgeville. It is sponsored by O3C Entertainment, of Atlanta. O3C stands for the words “Organizational,” “Consultation,” “Community” and “Collaboration.”
Three of the men who are involved with putting the event together this weekend talked in-depth with The Union-Recorder earlier this week. Jermaine Reaves, Elder Cedric Watson and Telly Boone, all found themselves on the wrong side of the law at one time and ended up being jailed and imprisoned as punishment.
All three of them have repented of their sinful lifestyles and decided to join an outreach ministry program aimed at reshaping the lives of those who are involved in doing the same things they use to do.
The trio now consider themselves as simple, ordinary men out to do extraordinary work for the Lord, wherever the Lord might lead them— just as he did in the Bible in the lives of Peter, John, Paul, David and Ananias and others.
“We’re going to be distributing free bags of groceries to 100 needy families in our community for Thanksgiving,” said Reaves, a local author and community mentor, who is hosting the event. “We do a lot of things in the community to reach out to all kinds of people. We feed the homeless and offer a mentoring program to a lot of younger guys about life, staying straight and doing the right thing.”
Reaves, who grew up on the Southside of Milledgeville, said the event is about giving back to a community that he loves and cares about deeply.
“We grew up in the ‘hood,” said Reaves. “But we love this community and there are a lot of people out there who could use our help, which is why we decided to do this at this time of the year,” said Reaves, who grew up selling drugs and who has served time in both state and federal prisons. “Let me say this — everybody thought I was in a gang, but I really wasn’t. I sold drugs around here for a long time between being in and out of prison.”
During his time hustling drugs on the streets of Milledgeville and throughout Baldwin County, Reaves was shot a couple of different times.
“I know what it’s like to almost be shot dead,” lamented Reaves. “I don’t want to live a lifestyle like that anymore. That’s why I go out and try to mentor to others, including those involved in gangs. My hope is that they change, but that’s something they have to want to do for themselves.”
Reaves said he tries to influence people by showing them the love of God.
“That’s what the Lord has laid upon my heart to do — help teach them about his love and his ways,” said Reaves.
Today, Reaves is a changed man.
“I found the Lord, and He has changed my life, forever,” said Reaves, who authored a book about his many prayers to God while serving an 8 1/2 year term in federal prison for selling illegal drugs. “Praise the Lord I’m no longer the man I used to be.”
Reaves no longer sells drugs, but instead reaches out to gang members and others whose lives are not what they should be, urging them to think about doing better by giving their lives to Christ. The two friends he has teamed up with for this weekend’s Thanksgiving giveaway, do the same kind of outreach.
Like Reaves, Boone used to sell drugs in neighboring Sparta and Hancock County — and considered himself good at it.
“I sold drugs when I was growing up in Sparta and I came from good parents,” said Boone, noting he did what he did because he chose to do the wrong thing.
Like Reaves, he has had to pay the price for those wrongdoings in life by serving time in state prison.
Shortly after Boone graduated from Hancock Central High School in 1994, he moved to Atlanta and became associated with a gang for several years.
Boone recalled that he played a little football for the Bulldogs while in high school, but he wasn’t as interested in the sport as he was making money selling drugs.
“I didn’t have to do what I did; I chose to do everything I did,” said Boone, remembering that it was really all about his ego at the time. “I made a lot of bad decisions because of the devil. I was never a follower. I was always looked upon as a leader. I had cars and I always had money when I grew up on the Hill.”
Today, the 44-year-old Boone, a father and grandfather, owns his tractor-trailer rig and is closely affiliated with O3C Entertainment in Atlanta where he has his own music label. Atlanta is now his home, and has been since 1994.
Boone said the Milledgeville and Baldwin County community matters, and that is one of the messages they want to convey to others on Sunday.
“We will always and forever strive to grow and develop as a community, resulting in progress,” said Boone, who describes himself as an entertaining musician. “I try to promote positive music.”
Boone believes that positive, entertaining music is just one of the many ways of bringing gangs together in a non-violent manner.
“I have my own music studio and I’m actually in the process now of building one in Sparta with one of my friends, a barber who recently ran for city council and lost by only 11 votes,” Boone said.
He said Milledgeville and Baldwin County were always like home to him because he and several other friends of his from the Sparta area often came to Milledgeville because it was the closest big city to them.
Boone said he had a close friend that he visited who lived in the Milledgeville Manor apartments.
“I sold dope out of her house and she was always talking about a man named ‘Maine Reaves,” Boone said, referring to Jermaine Reaves. “She would always tell me, ‘You remind me of ‘Maine Reaves.’ Young guys in the hood always looked up to me back then because I was older than they were, because I had hooked up with some dudes in Chicago.”
Boone said his past affiliation with a gang was what sent him to prison and he wants no more involvement with any gang, except in a positive way.
“Gangster Disciples don’t even exist no more,” Boone said. “You’ve got a lot of guys out there that still go by the Gangster Disciple laws, because they haven’t converted over yet.”
The GDs now stands for Growth and Development, Boone said.
It’s all about promoting the five positive P’s today, he pointed out.
Reaves said it’s all about inspiring those who are involved in doing bad things in neighborhoods, in urban areas and elsewhere, that instead of putting out negative vibes, they should put out positive vibes and energy.
“Instead of being gang bangers, go be a doctor, a lawyer, or go do something in life that’s going to make a difference in your life and the lives of other people,” said Reaves. “And then come back to the hood and make a difference in a positive way — not in a negative way. Anytime you stop doing bad things and you turn it around and do positive things, it’s the right way to go.”
Watson, who works as a milk route salesman with Mayfield Dairy, has been involved in the outreach ministry organization for the past three years.
“We want to see people use that same hustle they’ve been having in the wrong way to do good, instead of bad,” Watson said. “Instead of selling dope, go get a real job, sell cars or houses, but get rid of that hustle mentality of doing things in a bad way or a negative way.”
Watson, who grew up in the Riverbend area of Milledgeville, said he hustles every day selling milk to earn an honest living for himself and his family.