AVON PARK - Sweltering hot or chilly cool, hard-blowing winds or stagnant air, for the past three years, they've stood every Tuesday morning in solemn prayer, reflection and hoping for the best for their neighbors in the city, state, country and world.
For the past three years, up to 12 Avon Park residents have been gathering in a circle weekly at 7 a.m. - sometimes when it's still pitch black outside - to pray and express their hopes for a prosperous, crime-, illness- and war-free world.
Led by the Avon Park Lakes Baptist Church, the Prayer Circle is open to anyone of any religion, denomination, creed or philosophical background.
Gathering underneath the U.S. flagpole off Main Street between Forest and Butler avenues, at 7 a.m. whoever shows up joins hands in a circle. From there, he or she can say a prayer or statement regarding anything concerning them - health, war, the government or social issues.
The prayer circle was founded by Paul and Doris Miller, who said they just wanted to meet with other residents to pray for the well-being of everyone the world over. At the first few meetings, about four people came out; Tuesday morning, there were 12.
"I thought it would be a good way to get prayer downtown," said Paul Miller, 69.
Standing next to Paul was Jimmie Butts, who's been attending the circles since they began. Looking downward, she prayed for students to do well in their studies and for migrant workers who live in the area.
"Keep them safe in the fields today so they can provide for their families. We pray that they will not just be fruit harvesters, but ministers of the Gospel," she said.
Around the circle, others offered up blessings for cancer patients, for business growth and caregivers of the sick. Just after a car horn blared acknowledging the circle, Margaret Thurmond didn't forget about drivers.
"As we stand here in front of the public, I pray for all those that drive by," she solemnly said.
As the dark turned to daylight, the group sand "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow" and the group - a teacher, banker, accountant, laborer - went on to their work worlds.
"We just want the city and country to grow in a unified way. This is a good way to start the day," said Richard Denson, 27, of Avon Park, as he walked back to his parked car.