Delivering free Thanksgiving meals has become a habit for a Sunday school class at a Mount Airy church, which is now preparing for its 19th year of aiding local families in need.
During the past 18 years, more than 2,800 families — totaling about 10,500 children and adults — have benefited from the effort by the Emmanuel Sunday School Class of First Baptist Church and other congregations that assist.
Each November on the day before Thanksgiving, a small army of volunteers gathers in the grocery section of a local store to pick up bags filled with the ingredients for a complete holiday meal. The food then is delivered to households all over the county.
“We had close to 50 cars delivering last year,” said Woody Jordan, chief organizer of the meals project.
And while the annual Thanksgiving tradition shows no signs of waning, neither does the need the Sunday school class is trying to address through the help of about 28 agencies that identify recipients.
“And what we’re finding out each year, including this year, is we’re getting a lot of new families, which means there is a lot more need out there than previous years,” Jordan said Thursday. “There are a lot of people out of work.”
In 2011, the 256 meals delivered topped any previous year of the program, Jordan added.
Each meal consists of a turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls and a pumpkin pie.
Deliveries will be made this year on Nov. 21.
Along with supplying the food, the campaign has the added goal of promoting family unity. “We hope everyone can sit around together and enjoy this food,” Jordan said.
Others Can Help
While the First Baptist Sunday school group spearheads the meal deliveries and has members playing active roles in the effort, it also relies on additional churches as well as volunteers from the community at large.
That same assistance is being counted on again this year, said Jordan, who pointed out that getting involved with the program that’s already well-established is a good way for other churches to reach out to those in need.
Those not associated with the First Baptist Church group can make donations to help buy the food as well as volunteer to make deliveries.
A standard contribution of $27 covers the cost of a boxed meal for a family of four to five members, as well as a copy of the New Testament, which has been included with the food packages for the past 14 years. All money given goes directly to the cause, with no administrative costs included.
Jordan said one church group in the area usually donates money to supply 10 to 15 meals.
Additional churches, or individuals, can contribute by mailing checks made out to “FBC-Thanksgiving Meals” to First Baptist Church, 714 N. Main St., Mount Airy, NC, 27030, or delivering them to its office.
Others can make a difference by helping with the deliveries. “It seems like every year the delivery people we get are different,” Jordan said.
For example, a woman who works with one of the agencies that identifies families in need wants to deliver meals along with her children. To get involved with this part of the Thanksgiving meals program, interested persons can call First Baptist Church at 786-5185.
Local schools and various other agencies such as The Salvation Army provide lists of families to receive food, which are ranked based on need. Jordan said the First Baptist group uses that to make sure the food goes to the highest-priority cases, and the more money that is available the longer the recipient list becomes.
Each volunteer driver delivers meals to several families, which are contacted in advance for directions to their residences scattered around the area.
Last year, the recipients included a family living in a rundown mobile home in the Pine Ridge community. The mother was unable to cook for her four children and husband or drive a car due to her arm being in a sling from shoulder surgery.
At another location, on Red Brush Road, a father whose wife died in 2009 and who now lives with their two children on a fixed income was glad to receive the holiday meal.
“You wouldn’t believe some of the thank-you letters we get,” Jordan said, “and a lot of them are written by the children.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.