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Three Wide to hold annual Christmas meal and coat giveaway

SALISBURY – Hot food and new warm coats will go to children in need on Monday as part of Three Wide Foundation’s annual Christmas gathering.

Normally everyone would sit down for the meal and volunteers would wait on the attendees, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed that. Donna Thomas, who founded the organization with her husband Steve, said First Presbyterian is still allowing use of the fellowship hall, but tents will be set up on Fisher Street to give out meals as families come by.

“We’re very sad about that,” Thomas said, noting the special relationship volunteers get to build with families ordinarily.

Despite the changes, Thomas said the foundation was determined to still provide the meals and donations. The food is a traditional Christmas dinner that includes turkey, dressing, potatoes with gravy, green beans and dessert, all made possible with the help of volunteers.

Thomas said more than 300 people have signed up for meals and about 200 coats have been requested. The foundation works with Communities in Schools, which serves the most in-need schools in the district, to identify students to benefit from the meal.

In April, shortly after positive cases began appearing in Rowan County, the nonprofit held its annual Easter distribution, giving out hams, biscuits and Easter baskets. It would have normally delivered the hams to schools, but opted to deliver them outside in the parking lot of the Hurley YMCA instead.

Anthony Lockhart, one of the volunteers, said he has known Donna and Steve Thomas for years and  their heart for helping the underprivileged made a connection with him. He started volunteering at their events with his daughter and said it was an awesome experience.

“The people who are volunteering, the heart they have for the folks there in Salisbury is amazing,” Lockhart said. “The children, the parents, the coats, it is just unbelievable.”

Lockhart said his favorite thing about the event is seeing the joy on a child’s face when they get to pick out a coat or even something small like, in a normal year, coming up for another cookie

Maria Bassett cooks one of the 36 turkeys for the event. She said she enjoys cooking but working full time can make it difficult to be available during events, so helping prepare food ahead of time works for her schedule.

“Luckily we have enough to eat, we don’t have to worry,” Bassett said, adding she knows there are many families in town who can not afford good meals.

Bassett said after she retires, one of her goals is to do more volunteer work.

The Thomases founded the organization after learning about how many children in Rowan County are in need.

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