SARASOTA, Fla. -- It's been a Sarasota tradition for nearly two decades -- a local church group throws a barbecue for the homeless and community. But, this year, it almost didn't happen because of government red tape and a lack of funding.
The annual July 4th Jubilee barbecue was canceled two weeks ago after the group was low on funds. But once that problem was resolved through a donor, city officials said it was too late to get the permits necessary. That's when 10 News stepped in and helped get city officials and organizers to work it out.
"I really thank God for Channel 10 News. How you were able to do that. As of Monday, Neil and I, we stopped putting out fliers. We thought it was the end," said Shirley McArthur, co-founder of the July 4th Jubilee.
But it wasn't the end.
The pastor and the deputy city manager settled on a new agreement, one that requires a park permit and sound waiver for $165 plus a $150 deposit.
The McArthurs were given use of the kitchen and pavilion area but would be responsible for picking up the trash from the event.
Shirley McArthur and her husband, Pastor Neil McArthur, celebrate July 4th the way they have since 1993. They and a troop of volunteers feed more than 100 homeless plus families in need at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Sarasota's Newtown community.
The barbecue feeds the stomach and the spirit.
"This is where we choose to be, with the McArthurs giving back to the community, to those less fortunate ourselves," said Lawrence Allen.
After serving in Desert Storm with the Army, 41-year-old Allen said he got involved with the wrong crowd and served 16 years in jail. He said Pastor McArthur's ministering straightened him out and the last three years he's attended the barbecue spreading a message of hope.
"Even despite the situation or circumstances I want them to remember God is still there. It's hope that's the message I try to give out," said Allen. "It humbles me a lot to give back to see someone smile, to pray with them and sing with them it helps me stay grounded."
Hope is what the McArthurs hung on to this week and it paid off.
Pastor McArthur says he will start working on next year's July 4th event right away and hopes next year the City will not charge any fee for using the park.
"The county--as I have said--is our ally they worked with us," said McArthur. "I don't want anyone paying that much money for a park. I'm asking they waive the fee this is Independence Day."
Neil and Shirley McArthur run the Eternal Bread of Life Ministries in Sarasota. The couple's ministry provides Thanksgiving dinners for needy families and do a back-to-school shopping drive for several hundred children each summer.