Gratitude in Action: Few Provide Meals for the Many
The needy did not go without this Thanksgiving, and the credit goes to the crew from tiny Fairview Baptist Church in West End.
Members spent Thursday at three north Moore County locations distributing 552 take-home Thanksgiving dinners to the families and children enrolled in the Moore County Schools BackPack Pals program.
Almost all 75 members of the congregation pitched in. For some, this meant altering their own holiday plans.
“We’ll do Thanksgiving dinner with my folks on Sunday,” Jeannette Chisholm said.
Others returned to the church, collapsed at the long tables and gave thanks for leftovers.
This heart-warming, stomach-filling story opens in 2005, when Linda Hubbard, coordinator of school volunteers in Aberdeen, observed students who appeared to have little to eat on weekends. She helped establish BackPack Pals, a program funded by donations that sends packages containing nutritious snacks home every Friday.
BackPack Pals, begun in one school with 25 children, now serves 219 in three North Moore schools — 1,100 in 22 schools countywide — as part of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. The program remains funded by kindness and staffed by volunteers like Hubbard, its director.
David Hancock, a Fairview church member and painting contractor, learned of BackPack Pals while working in Hubbard’s house.
“He (and wife Annette) wanted to do something for children in north Moore,” Hubbard recalls.
Fairview folks had previously delivered Thanksgiving meals on a smaller scale. But it was already mid-October. Could something be organized and funded in just four weeks?
Annette Hancock thought so. She enlisted Tammy Horne.
“The Scripture tells us to be doers,” Horne says.
“To give till it hurts,” Chisholm adds.
But during an economic downturn, everybody’s hurting. “This is a church of working people, blue collar,” Horne says. “We don’t have doctors and lawyers. We just decided to trust God and go for it.”
The project was announced at services. Congregants approved and immediately mustered a few hundred dollars. But what did that mysterious envelope contain?
A check for $1,000 from a secret “angel.”
In all, the church collected $2,300.
Full speed ahead.
BackPack Pals kids took home a questionnaire asking how many children and adults needed Thanksgiving dinner. Sometimes the response was a single parent with one child, but more often it was three or four children with parents and, perhaps, grandparents. No limits were set.
With Horne, a detail-oriented surgical nurse, at the helm, jobs were assigned: Carol and Steve Albert, formerly of Eastwood Diner, assisted with logistics. Carol knew how many industrial-sized cans she needed for her sweet potato pudding. Gene Boles made deep pans of dressing. Steve and his crew obtained turkey breasts at cost from a local supplier. Somebody made a run to Sam’s Club in Fayetteville for other supplies.
“We work well under pressure,” Chisholm says.
On Thanksgiving eve, under a starry sky, half a dozen men fired up gas and charcoal smokers outside the church education building, heaved 315 pounds of turkey breast onto the racks, and had a grand old time telling stories for three hours, until the meat was done. Inside, teenagers watched the little ones while their parents set up an assembly line where, beginning at 6 a.m. Thursday, volunteers filled clamshell containers with turkey, dressing, gravy, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and rolls. Desserts, many homemade, required separate packaging.
Robbins recipients, deemed the neediest, also received grocery bags filled with donations from Fresh Market and elsewhere. A sticker with a Bible verse in English and Spanish was affixed to each container, with an “Are You Going to Heaven?” tract inside.
By late morning, loaded vans were headed for pick-up locations in Seagrove, Robbins and Carthage. Sensitivity was a consideration; volunteers with school-age children were dispatched to another area to avoid meeting classmates.
In Robbins, a passerby pulled over to see what was happening. He was so impressed, volunteers report, that he gave volunteers $8 to start next year’s project. The kitty already contained $600, since the meal came in under budget, at $1,700.
Christina Nunnery’s face beamed appreciation as she accepted five dinners in Carthage. “This is a great thing they’re doing for those of us who can’t afford much this time of year,” she said. The table was ready, her three children excited. “They love to eat.”
Deborah Wallace’s gratitude was tinged with sadness. She is raising two grandchildren in a house with her sick husband. They will place a table beside his bed.
“I had planned to cook some stuff but this way, they get to have turkey like everybody else,” Wallace said before rushing away.
Ninety percent of meals were claimed. Horne had recipients’ addresses for emergency deliveries.
Thanks to good planning, busy hands and, Horne insists, the grace of God, 500 needy neighbors enjoyed the Thanksgiving dinner that most Americans take for granted.
Linda Hubbard stopped by to greet and thank the Fairview parishioners. “I hope some of the bigger churches take note of what you have done,” she said, wryly.
Same time next year? Horne nods an affirmative.
Like little David who faced Goliath, the families whose lives revolve around this 50-year-old rural church felt victorious — and relieved.
“I’m the one who feels grateful,” Horne said. “We are blessed. Times are hard. You never know — next year we could be on that list.”
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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