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Local church addresses student holiday hunger

By Rebecca Rider
rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — It’s been years since First Presbyterian Church in Salisbury adopted Overton Elementary. It was actually the church who first started handing out backpacks filled with food to students in need, member Steve Thomas said.

Now, that responsibility has been handed over to Food for Thought, a local non-profit that provides weekend supplies to approximately 600 children countywide — but it only operates during the school calendar year.

“When they are out of school for three weeks, four weeks, what are they doing?” Thomas asked. “They’re not getting a backpack.”

That need inspired Thomas and other members of First Presbyterian to host a Christmas dinner and food drive for Overton students who normally receive a backpack. Nearly 120 people signed up to attend the meal, held Thursday at First Presbyterian.

“It’s just a good, traditional Christmas dinner,” Thomas said.

More than 20 volunteers worked together to make mashed potatoes and green beans, cook and carve 11 turkeys and serve families with a smile. An hour into the dinner, Thomas said he estimated that 80 to 100 people had passed through.

Many took a meal home with them, pausing to load up a bag with cans of food and packages of non-perishable items. But some lingered at the church, enjoying the food and the company.

“I hope this is the start of something that will take off,” Thomas said.

The meal fell under the umbrella of the church’s evangelism ministry. When most people think of evangelism, Thomas said, they think of work overseas, and may not realize the need of children in their own backyard.

“Rowan County is hurtin’,” he said.

The public school system has many students who don’t have access to regular meals, or who may struggle with living without a home. Thomas and other members of First Presbyterian hope that the idea will “catch fire” and grow to continue to provide for the needs of local children.

“Kids are a big thing,” Thomas said. “We’ve got to take care of the kids.”

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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