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Building Bridges Across Racial Lines

When Leroy Cannaday was asked to serve as moderator for a new NCS group, he knew a little about his mission - to break down walls and connect people of different races. But he did not grasp the full magnitude of his new responsibilities of NCS East.

As the host for the NCS meetings, Virginia Hardesty, owner of Forsyth Seafood, had a similar experience.

“My pastor, Dr. George Banks, approached me and said he was trying to figure out a good location in East Winston to hold a new prayer breakfast group,” stated Hardesty.

“He brought a group in for lunch one day, and before I knew it, they were asking if I’d be willing to open my restaurant one morning a week for their meeting.”

Hardesty took a leap of faith and said ‘yes” without really knowing what she was committing to. Thankfully, she was a morning person and was open to what God had in store for her. She believed that it was always great to bring people together in prayer and was glad she could provide a space to do that.

Since starting in 2016, the NCS East group has continued to grow.

“While I’m not in the room during most of the meetings, I see how everyone is so heightened by the end. They’ve had some very dynamic speakers. The group is becoming more diverse, with more African American men involved. You can really feel the holy spirit there. Men give personal testimonies and become closer to each other. Sometimes, you see men cry from being truly touched,” shared Hardesty.

Like the men who attend the meetings, Hardesty has had her life touched by NCS East. She’s gained new friendships and regular restaurant customers. She’s felt a kindness from the group and been welcomed in to some of their meetings. In one, the group had some famous producers giving testimonies - people that had worked with major celebrities. As they spoke about past issues involving treatment of women, Hardesty realized that the ministry she gave space for provided a time for men to feel truly safe and speak freely.

“The meetings let them talk about things that only men experience and expose their hearts and their weaknesses in a safe, non-judgmental place,” she said.

Hardesty knows exactly how her late husband, Charlie, would have felt about NCS East. He passed away about five years ago. Together, they had made upgrades at the restaurant in his later years that made it a place where meetings like NCS East could happen. Hardesty said Charlie would have thought it was really neat and an honor that they would have been chosen to host.

Hardesty added, “He would have loved to have been right there in the middle of it, too.”

Cannady continues to serve as the group’s moderator, scheduling speakers with a team of volunteers and watching NCS East grow in numbers. Going forward he is open to lead, serve, and participate with NCS East as the need fits, all for God’s glory.

Hardesty and her daughter, Ashley, will continue to host the weekly meeting at the restaurant started in 1984 as a shrimp business and now the thriving fresh market and 100-seater restaurant that it is today. Forsyth Seafood is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday.

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