Homeless veteran who froze to death honored with balloon release


Augusta, GA (WJBF)- Nearly a year ago a homeless veteran was found frozen to death outside of GAP Ministries. Now the organization is honoring his memory.

Three days after Christmas last year Willie Walker’s body was discovered in the cold. His death was devastating to his friends and the people working with the homeless community.

Today, GAP Ministries will honor his memory with a food give away and balloon release. In addition to the usual meal, they will also be giving out fresh fruit to those in need.

Harvey Bend is the director of Harvest Field Ministries which is under the umbrella of GAP Ministries. He said Mr. Willie would have loved this tribute to him.

“I think he would say well done. That’s what I think he would say. Well done. He would really feel like he’s been honored. I don’t know if that ever occurred in his life but he would feel like he’s been honored.”

Volunteers worked with Mr. Willie closely and said they got to know him and came to care about him. Bend became emotional when talking about Mr. Willie, saying he was devastated when he heard of his death.

“After having those experiences that we had with him, you begin to develop compassion for an individual and you’re concerned about their suffering. So when I heard it was really…you want to see them fly. That’s the only thing I can say.”

NewsChannel 6 spoke with District 1 Commissioner Jordan Johnson at the time of Mr. Willie’s death. At the time he said that the tragedy and a conversation with Christopher Mulliens with the Freddie Mae Foundation prompted him to look harder at the homeless population in Augusta and come up with solutions.

“I think that situation puts us in a position to where we should have an in depth conversation about what it means to be homeless in this city. And explore solutions. Not just shelter solutions but solutions that can help people get out of one life style and move into another,” Commissioner Johnson told NewsChannel 6’s Kim Vickers in January.

We asked Bend if he felt the city is doing what needs to be done to find those solutions.

“A lot of talk, but no real change, you know? Talking without commitment, you know? They’re not making a serious commitment to the problem. They get in the newspaper and they get on TV and they look good talking about it. But they need to be here. They need to be here. Because you won’t truly know what you’re dealing with until you’re in the midst of it,” said Bend.

NewsChannel 6 reached out to Commissioner Johnson for an update. We have not yet heard back.

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