Outreach delivers more than a meal
By Hugh Fisherh
Hundreds of people didn’t sit down as a family to carve turkeys or watch football with their families or friends Thursday.
They left home and went out into the world to volunteer their time so others less fortunate than themselves could have a brighter Thanksgiving.
Each year, local churches feed the homeless, the poor, the unemployed, the elderly.
All across our area, the simple act of sharing a Thanksgiving meal reminded many of what they’re thankful to have and to know this season.
2,500 meals to serve
In Kannapolis, Memorial Baptist Church marked its 17th year offering a free Thanksgiving dinner to all who ask.
“We’re ready for about 2,500 people,” said Bob McVay, coordinator of the feeding project.
Cooking started on Tuesday, with members of Memorial Baptist, Franklin Heights Baptist and Parkwood Baptist donating food or helping to prepare it.
Members of other local congregations also came to help serve.
“We have had close to 300 volunteers, Tuesday to today,” McVay said Thursday.
Turkey, dressing, green beans, yams, desserts ó everything that makes a traditional Thanksgiving feast ó wound up in the church kitchen and on assembly lines in the fellowship hall.
By 11 a.m., bags filled with foam take-out boxes were moving out from the church kitchen in a steady stream.
Cars, trucks and vans driven by volunteers lined up around the back of the church.
Meals were loaded and maps distributed; the volunteers drove on into the community.
“We’ve already delivered 32, and we’re about to deliver 39 more,” said Paul Miller.
Miller and his wife, Angela, got some help from their children, Ashley and Derek, in sorting plastic bags full of foam take-out boxes into the back of their minivan.
“This is our first year,” said Miller. The family attends Charity Baptist Church, but saw this as a chance to help out in the community.
“We want to show our children how fortunate we are, and share the love of God in the community,” Miller said.
He, and several others, said it was important for their children to see what it meant to help those in need.
David Cone, with wife Nancy and children Morgan, Travis and Corey, loaded meals to deliver in the Jackson Park neighborhood.
“We’re blessed to be delivering (the meals), and we hope they’re blessed in receiving them,” Cone said.
By noon, volunteers said that 1,642 meals had been sent out in Kannapolis to those who had requested them.
Many more people came to the church to pick up meals for their families; some ate in a dining area set up in the fellowship hall, while kids played nearby and the volunteers kept making more food.
Julie Childers has been volunteering at the Thanksgiving meal for 14 years, ever since she and her husband joined Memorial Baptist.
She manned the desk where people requesting meals signed in, greeting somber-faced visitors with a warm smile.
Those visitors were a cross-section of Rowan and Cabarrus counties: young and old, white and black and Hispanic.
Childers said there had been an early rush once service started at 11 a.m.
McVay said he expected about 400 people to eat at the church and hundreds more to take meals home to families.
Childers is one of many who volunteer at the church every year; this is her family’s 14th year helping at the meal service.
“This is all we really know Thanksgiving to be,” she said.
In Salisbury, a similar scene played out at Outreach Christian Ministries on Horah Street.
Prophetess Velva Carter and volunteers from inside and outside the church community prepared meals for about 100 people in the church’s first Thanksgiving food ministry.
“We wanted to give back and help this community,” said Apostle R.E. “Ray” Taylor, pastor of Outreach Christian Ministries.
Now in his 45th year of ministry, Taylor said the church has given aid to the hungry and orphans in Nigeria and Kenya and South Africa.
A bulletin board inside the church tells those who pass that they are now entering “The Mission Fields.”
Yesterday, the church’s mission field was the streets of Salisbury.
“There’s so many people who are homeless, who are out of a job,” Taylor said.
“We said, let’s open the church doors and let whoever will, come in. The Bible says feed the hungry, take care of the less fortunate. That’s the point of our Gospel mission.”
Taylor and her volunteers prepared baked chicken, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and apple or pumpkin pie.
Individuals walked or drove in to pick up meals, while the church bus was dispatched to bring in those without transportation.
“Later, we’ll be going through the neighborhood, distributing food,” Carter said.
Having once been homeless herself, Carter wanted to offer a place for those in need to come and find a meal on Thanksgiving, and more.
“I hope to see you here one Sunday!” she told a man while she filled a box with food for his family.
Two volunteers, Cassie Safrit of Salisbury and Zach Thompson of Rockwell, read about Carter’s Thanksgiving meal in the Salisbury Post.
“I just called and asked if she needed any help, or any supplies,” Safrit said. They’d never heard of Outreach Christian Ministries before.
She and Thompson donated pies and drinks to the meal effort.
“We just thought it would be a good opportunity to help out. Now we’re just like old friends.”
Carter corrected her with a smile: “We’re family.”
Thanks and praise
For those who benefited from these ministries, Thanksgiving is more than occasion for a meal.
Their words were similar, across ages and ethnic lines, from one city to another:
“I’m thankful that all my family’s intact,” said Judy Ramsey in Kannapolis.
“I’m thankful that I was able to see another Thanksgiving, and I give God praise for that.”
Ramsey came to Memorial Baptist to receive meals for her three children, one grandchild and herself.
She said she believes the problems of the world today are a way God is trying to speak to humanity.
“If we could just come together as a people, we could get a lot more done than if we separate. But we’re too divided,” she said.
Ramsey smiled as she hugged volunteer Betsy Cooke, of Crosspointe Baptist Church, then left to take Thanksgiving dinner to her family.
Outside Memorial Baptist, John Robinson smiled as he held the bag with Thanksgiving dinner for himself and his elderly grandparents.
“I’ve still got them, and to sit down and have a good meal with them is really a blessing,” he said.
And with that, Robinson balanced on his bicycle, holding the bag with Thanksgiving dinner carefully in one hand, and made his way out of the parking lot toward home.
In Salisbury, John Douglas said he was thankful for his daughter, Camry, who was visiting from Sanford for the holiday.
He picked up dinner for the two of them at Outreach Christian Ministries.
More than that, Douglas said, “I’m thankful for my salvation … and for the people God has put into my life, and my willingness to submit.”
Zach Thompson, working there with Cassie and with new friends, said he’s thankful for everything they’ve been blessed with.
“There are people less fortunate, and I just want to give back to the community however I can.”