Savannah Morning News
September 10, 2017
It’s a rare sight to see Wayne Harden sitting down. The man is a worker. Four mornings a week he shows up early at Emmaus House, a Christ Church Episcopal outreach kitchen on Bryan Street that feeds a hot meal to 200 men, women and children, 50 weeks a year. But this was Wayne’s wedding day and he wasn’t intending to work. His hair was trimmed, he was shaved, he wore a sky blue shirt, pressed khaki pants and dress shoes. He wasn’t helping people sort through clothes or navigate laundry facilities. He wasn’t opening, then collapsing aluminum chairs for the tables in the ground floor Parish House. He wasn’t bagging up recycled paper, flattening boxes, collecting aluminum cans, hauling donated food or supplies to chef Freda Payne in the kitchen or picking up donated food from generous people who would arrive at the door with their offerings. He wasn’t helping volunteers pack lunches for the weekend when there would be no hot meal.
On this day, a sunny Friday morning when the tourists were just starting to wake up and congregate, Wayne, the clinic supervisor for Emmaus House, showed up on time, as usual, at 9 a.m. with his bride-to-be Rhonda for the nuptials. They stood in Reynolds Square with officiant Helen P. Bradley, said a few words, signed the proper papers and tied the knot. Then they walked across the leafy square to the Parish House where chef Freda, who had just passed out bagged lunches and hot biscuits and scrambled eggs, an unexpected gift from the convention center, served the couple alfredo fettuccine, collard greens and red rice followed by a sheet cake offering congratulations. Emmaus House director Ariana Berkheimer sat with the couple and shared the meal.
Earlier, another one of Wayne’s employers showed up in the square to photograph the “I do’s” and to document the proverbial kiss. Alan Barnes, co-owner of the popular and venerable Barnes Restaurant, is no stranger to Emmaus House. Most Mondays this restaurateur drives downtown to deliver four to six gallons of leftover oxtail gravy from the restaurant’s popular Sunday special; he estimates the restaurant sells 500 servings, but there’s always more gravy to share. He, like other restaurants in town, also donates other food when he can – Brunswick stew, barbecue pork and beef brisket.
Wayne is no stranger to Barnes Restaurant. Alan used to see him in the well-known Waters avenue establishment, back when his late father Nesbert, better known as Bo, owned it. That was back when Bo – who worked as a typesetter at the Savannah Morning News – bought the building that used to house Carey Hilliard’s. After seeing Wayne in the restaurant so much Alan had a hunch Wayne might be a good worker. “So I hired him,” he said. “I put him to work.” He washed dishes, cleaned the vans, split the wood and mowed the yard. Years later he still helps Alan with catering jobs and is on call for weekends or nights when employees don’t show up. Alan also hired Rhonda.
Alan can recognize hard workers and hard work. He saw the same traits in his father. Before buying Barnes and turning it into a full-fledged restaurant, Bo owned a popular Dairy Queen on Montgomery street. That’s where Alan would work summers and on the weekends. But Bo was cautious, Alan said. Before buying the old Hilliard’s he and Alan would drive to the Waters avenue establishment, sit in their car and count the number of people who walked in. “Old school marketing,” Alan said.
These days Wayne also remembers to collect uneaten bread from the Emmaus House and from Barnes, which he takes to Lake Mayer to feed the birds.
“My dad used to do that, too,” Alan said. “He’d do it every day, like clockwork. Wayne does too. He told me this is his memorial to my father.”