Something to be thankful for: Providence Baptist serves meals, hope to 200 people
By Hugh Fisher
EAST SPENCER - Driving through city streets in East Spencer, Steve Casper said he's got a lot to be thankful for.
Life is tough, Casper said. "Everywhere you go, people have been foreclosed out."
But Casper and fellow volunteer Brian Wilkerson of Providence Baptist Church in East Spencer were spending the morning trying to make the day brighter for several people.
In Casper's SUV, they were out to deliver six dinners of turkey, ham and trimmings.
For seven years now, members of Providence Baptist, joined by volunteers from other churches and the community, have prepared a free Thanksgiving dinner.
They deliver meals to the community and serve them in the church fellowship hall … no questions asked.
Sam Adams, a deacon of the church, said they had served 163 meals in the first 90 minutes of the Thanksgiving celebration.
"God's in charge," Adams said. "We've done this for seven years … This is probably the biggest year yet."
Members of Providence Baptist and other area churches helped prepare the food, starting around 8 a.m. Thursday.Those who came to the church are asked about their faith, and there are religious tracts and plenty of people willing to pray.
But there wasn't a "hard sell," no tension or sense that anyone was unwelcome.
The atmosphere inside of the fellowship hall was much like that of a family reunion.
Young and old, black and white and Hispanic, all ate together.
"Some have said they wouldn't have Thanksgiving without us," Adams said.
"It's just a joy to help people out," Casper said.
"We delivered to this one family, and the little boy there was excited," Wilkerson said.
Casper said his wife, a nurse at Rowan Regional Medical Center, was working Thanksgiving day.
Wilkerson said his family was gathered at the church, though his wife and younger kids were at home.
Throughout the afternoon, calls came in from families in the area, including one large order to the East Wind Apartments off Boundary Street.
That's where Casper and Wilkerson made their last run of the afternoon.
Waiting for them in the apartment complex activity room was Dorothy Harris, who's lived there for nine years.
She uses an electric wheelchair to get around. In her lap, Harris held a list of names, marking them off as meals were picked up.
She'd heard about the free Thanksgiving meals, and made sure her neighbors who needed the help knew about it.
"I'm glad somebody is thinking of people like us," Harris said.
Her daughter doesn't have a vehicle now, and with the busses not running on Thanksgiving, "I'm just stuck!" Harris said.
After they put down the bags of meals, and spoke to people in the activity room, Casper and Wilkerson wished Harris a happy Thanksgiving and headed back to the vehicle for the drive back to Providence.
"I'm glad we were able to help out, that's for sure," Casper said.
In all, they delivered 71 meals Thursday.
So many, Adams said, that the church ran out of to-go boxes.
"I think a lot of the time, we don't think about that stuff," Casper said.
"You've got so much going on in life, going to work, picking the kids up from school, you don't always stop to think of what you're blessed with."
Wilkerson said he tries to remind himself of God's blessings. "I'm thankful to Him every day for allowing me to wake up, to start the day out right," Wilkerson said.On Thanksgiving day, Casper said, he was glad to help live the Golden Rule.
"Do unto others as you'd have done to yourself," Casper said. "You got a lot of people who are wealthy who don't help a dime."
But that doesn't matter, if you do what you can to make a difference.
Adams agreed. "We're trying to do the work of the Lord, to let people know we're more than a church, that we're here when people need us," he said.
Although Adams said his daughter was in the hospital with diverticulitis, he and wife Ida had come to help their fellow church members with the dinner.
As soon as the last diners had left, they readied themselves to go back to the hospital.
Sy Ponds, pastor of Providence Baptist for 13 years, said the need in the community that was shown by their Thanksgiving feedings led the church to establish a year-round food pantry.
"We've given away quite a few groceries this week," Ponds said - canned goods, especially vegetables and canned meats, he said.
"They're just basically donated by our church members," Ponds said.
Additionally, he said, volunteers from Yadkin Baptist also assisted, and the North Rowan High Booster Club donated a barbecue shoulder.
"Everybody's really grateful," Ponds said.
And, as he prepared to go on with his day, Casper said being part of this event had reminded him of all he's got, of the things for which he's truly thankful.
"We complain about stuff all the time," he said, "but it's nothing compared to what others have to deal with."
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor's desk at 704-797-4244.