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story.lead_photo.caption Sonya Collins prepares to serve a hot meal to those in need on Wednesday afternoon. The meal consisted of hot dogs, beans, potatoes and other sides. Photo by Kelsi Brinkmeyer / Texarkana Gazette.

TEXARKANA — With the help of a number of ministries and community members, Bridging the Gaps of Arkansas served free hot meals to the homeless population Wednesday afternoon on State Line Avenue.

Bridging the Gaps is a nonprofit that looks to address issues that affect community, health, safety and economics and develop youth leaders through intervention and education. Its volunteers cooked and served hot dogs and side dishes from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Group and event organizer Barbara Pitts Riley said the location was chosen in order to reach the largest number of people.

"We were thinking about what we could do to make a difference in some people's lives during the holidays," Pitts Riley said. "Everybody does something on Christmas, but they've got to eat everyday. So, we were thinking about how we could serve the community."

Food served included hot dogs, sausage, potato wedges, carrots and beans.

Pitts Riley said it was an important time of the year to help out, as some of the people they serve are struggling to stay fed and warm.

"There are some people who sit right there on the corner of Ninth Street and State Line, backed up against the wall, and there have been some really cold days lately," she said. "Last week, it was in the 20s. Sometimes, these people are in shelters, and I'm not sure which shelters are even open right now. They're definitely limited."

Several local ministries helped out with the meals, businesses and individuals donated food.

Ministries assisting with the event included Hands of Compassion and All for Christ.

Youlanda Thomas, who is the founder and CEO of Hands of Compassion, said this was an easy event to get on board with because of their shared interests with Bridging the Gaps.

"I was reached out to by Ms. Barbara Pitts and Bridging the Gaps, and our mission is outreach to the less fortunate and homeless, so we really merged well together," Thomas said.

Sonya Collins, a minister with All for Christ, said she hoped to fulfill her and her ministry's mission at the event.

"It's a passion of mine to give and serve," Collins said. "We've just got to be about our Father's business. And to feed God's sheep is my main mission everyday."

Pitts Riley said her organization helps out the community in a variety of different ways — including a youth program, a senior program and a nursing program — and yesterday's event was just one of the many ways they make their presence felt.

"We serve the community in as many ways that we possibly can, by what our name is — Bridging the Gaps — so, we do whatever we can to connect people to the resources they need to be successful and prosperous in their life," she said. "That could be education, food or whatever they need."

(To learn more about Bridging the Gaps of Arkansas, call 903-908-9754 or visit its website at

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