News 12 First at Five; April 8, 2009
AUGUSTA, Ga. --- There's even more free parking around The National this year, after one man caused a controversy on Austin Rhodes' radio show.
A man complained about National Hills Baptist Church charging people for parking. Now the church has stopped charging people to park in their lots. It's a big move in this tough economy.
For some people, it's a reason to break out the pom poms. Free parking!
"We want to be known as those who give back and not take," says National Hills Baptist Church Pastor Kevin Steele.
Up until Wednesday, Pastor Steele charged people to park in his lot. But that changed after the radio show controversy this week.
"This is not any reaction to comments made, but it called to our attention the reality that some perceive the church as just taking from them," Pastor Steele said.
"Is it a step of faith? Does it make us a little nervous? Sure," said Steele. "Is there a little disagreement about it? Probably."
The money they got from this week was used for scholarships for kids, youth camps and more. "We'll continue to do those things but it'll just be through another means."
Whole Life Ministries parking lot, just down the road from National Hills, is still charging people to park there. But the staff tells us they contract out the lot and they only get paid the money gained from leasing the parking lot.
Added free parking at the Augusta National and its grounds may not only affect the Baptist Church, but private lot owners too. They tell us several lots have more open spaces this year.
Jon Cury is a regular parker at the National Hills lot. "I noticed the sign and thought it was a joke," said the Pittsburgh native. "I thought it was a great gesture."
He adds that he doesn't mind people making some money off the course for parking and he even pulled out some green to donate to the church, but the church did not take the money.
"We trust our people will give and continue to do so," said Steele.
He also says with the new free parking comes the new free prayer system. Starting today, they were handing out free prayer cards for people to use to ask Kevin and his staff to pray for them.