Love Christian Center has been sharing its ‘Love’ on Thanksgiving Day for many years

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Kathy Chaffin
EAST SPENCER ó When Edith Downs was growing up in Mocksville, her mother cooked for all the children in the neighborhood.
“A lot of the children didn’t have food,” she says, “so my mother cooked three meals a day. She made biscuits from scratch for breakfast, lunch and dinner … She was a giver.”
Downs married and had five children of her own, moving to East Spencer 16 years ago. When her mother, Mary Hancock, suffered a stroke in 1990, she drove back and forth to Mocksville to help take care of her for about six years.
“She was completely bedridden,” she says. “Then later on, she had to have both legs amputated because of poor circulation.”
When her mother died in September 1996, Downs says she was still grieving two months later and decided not to cook a Thanksgiving dinner for her family that year. They would just go out to eat, she told her children.
But God had other plans for Edith Downs. “The Holy Spirit told me, ‘Why not feed other people that need a meal?’ ” she says. “I thought about my mother. That’s what she would have wanted.”
Downs says she talked to her pastor, Bishop W. Ronald Hash, at Love Christian Center in East Spencer, about cooking a Thanksgiving meal for the needy. “He thought it was a great idea,” she says. “He said, ‘Well, we’ll use the church,’ so that’s how it got started.”
That was the first of 10 Thanksgiving lunches at Love Christian Center, located at 102 N. Long St. Downs, a charter member and minister at the church, says they skipped two years when there weren’t enough volunteers. “It grieved my spirit so to not do it,” she says.
After that, Downs says she vowed she would continue the community Thanksgiving meal even if she had to do it herself. She didn’t have to worry about that.
“My church family has just been so helpful,” she says. “I know a lot of people on Thanksgiving, there are other things they would rather be doing, but the participation is so great.
“Our name is Love Christian Center, and we do love to help people and it shows on Thanksgiving Day.”
Hash says most of the church’s 150 members either help or donate food for the luncheon. People from the community also help.
Past volunteers include Livingstone College students, veterans, staff from the Hefner VA Medical Center and the North Rowan High School Band Boosters.
Last year, Downs says a couple from New Jersey read about the Thanksgiving meal in the newspaper and showed up to help.
“They had worked at Rowan Helping Ministries that morning, and they came on down to the church,” she says. “That’s what they do on Thanksgiving.”
The meal has grown from serving 25 the first year to more than 300 last year. About a third of those were delivered to people unable to drive to the church.
Volunteers start two days before Thanksgiving preparing the meal, which consists of turkey with dressing and gravy, ham, chicken, green beans, pinto beans, mixed greens, salad, corn, mashed potatoes, potato salad, candied yams, rolls, a variety of desserts and drinks.
Some of the church members and volunteers prepare their specialties every year. Valerie Patterson, for example, always makes a red velvet cake. “That’s one thing everybody looks forward to,” Downs says.
Because so many people are struggling due to the poor economy, she says volunteers are also preparing grocery bags full of food to give out at the 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. meal.
Downs, who runs Majesty Beauty Salon in Spencer, says her three daughters, two sons, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, 22 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren also help out with the meal. The only family member who won’t be there Thursday is her stepdaughter, Lageana, who is scheduled to work at Rowan Regional Medical Center.
“This is our Thanksgiving,” she says, “and then for Christmas, I cook the big dinner.”
Every year when she’s helping to prepare and serve the community Thanksgiving luncheon, Edith Downs says she thinks about her mother, the woman who inspired it. “She was a Christian,” she says. “She loved people, and she enjoyed helping people.”
Downs says giving back to the community is her way of following in her mother’s footsteps as well as sharing her blessings. “I know I’m blessed,” she says. “If we’re blessed, we need to bless someone else. The Lord blesses us so we can be a blessing.”

Want to go?
The Thanksgiving Day meal at Love Christian Center, 102 N. Long St., East Spencer, is 11 a.m.-2 p.m.