Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving dinner at Providence Baptist Church is a tradition.

For seven years running, they’ve offered turkey and trimmings to anyone who asks.

Tuesday, Pastor Sy Ponds and volunteers were on hand to bring in some of the fixings: big cans of beans, cardboard trays stacked with cans of cranberry sauce and glass jars of gravy.

Five turkeys and five hams were also purchased, and more are expected to come in.

The food is the result of donations from parishioners and generous shoppers at a July yard sale, proceeds of which also supported the church’s regular food pantry.

The idea behind the meal at Providence — which they also deliver in the Salisbury vicinity, on request — is that it goes “to those who need it most.”

Needy, lonely or otherwise, all are welcome, Ponds said.

Deacon Sam Adams and wife, Ida, are two of the organizers.

“It’s hard work, but I enjoy it. I really look forward to Thanksgiving, for this,” Ida Adams said.

Many churches and organizations offer free meals on Thanksgiving, not just for the needy, but for any who ask.

North Kannapolis Baptist Church is continuing its tradition of a free Thanksgiving breakfast — an idea that started six years ago.

Maxine Hare, member of the organizing committee, said it’s open to “anyone who would like to come.”

“We’re gonna have scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits, gravy (and) coffee,” Hare said.

They expect to feed “anywhere from 300 to 400,” Hare said. “It varies.”

“We started it because we thought there would be some in our community who couldn’t go to a Thanksgiving lunch or dinner,” Hare said.

Love Christian Center, in East Spencer, expects “anything from 50 to 300” for their Thanksgiving meal, according to business administrator Cedrick Hash.

“Whoever comes, whoever needs,” Hash said. “It’s just a ministry we look forward to.”

Elder Edith Downs of Love Christian Center said their feeding has been taking place for the last 12 years. The annual event started out of her own tradition. “My mother was ill for about 10 years, and I took care of her,” Downs said. “I went to Mocksville every day and cooked for her.”

After her mother passed away in 1996, Downs first said she didn’t want to cook for Thanksgiving.

Then, she said, “I noticed so many people not having dinner … I said, what if I cook at church, and what if we feed at the church on Thanksgiving?”

About 50 to 60 volunteers help out with the meal, including deliveries, Downs said.

At Rowan Helping Ministries, the noon meal on Thanksgiving will be open to all, as usual. “If you’re hungry, we feed you,” said Kimberly Collins. “There’s no qualifications.”

In addition, a lot of families have been contacting the agency about food aid.

“Today was a very high number. We saw 81 families in need of food, and typically we see about 56,” Collins said.

Back at Providence Baptist, Sam Adams said they’re planning for about 150 meals this year.

“We haven’t had as many call in as usual,” he said, but added, “You never know how many people are going to come in and eat.”

Those who come to the church can also pick from about 30 jackets, plus an assortment of men’s, women’s and kids’ clothes that have been donated by the church and the community.

Volunteers will deliver meals to the Salisbury vicinity, within reason, Adams said.

It’s a chance for members of the church to socialize, and to spread a Christian message, Ponds said.

But it’s more about helping others, said volunteer Crystal Brown. “We don’t do this to glorify Providence Baptist Church,” Brown said.

And it’s not strictly for the needy, Ponds said.

This year, he said, the church has changed the name of the event to Thanksgiving Sharing, to try to overcome any stigma people might feel.

Throughout the year, Ponds said, “I get a lot of people knocking on the door” of the parsonage, next door to the church, asking for assistance.

“You feel bad, you try to help,” Ponds said.

This is an opportunity to try to make a difference, he said. “If we didn’t help but one, it’d be worth it,” Ponds said.

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.