Volunteers prepare 400 meals

Published 1:54 am Friday, November 27, 2015

Volunteers prepared 400 Thanksgiving meals yesterday.

Volunteers prepared 400 Thanksgiving meals yesterday.

With more than an hour left to serve Thanksgiving meals, volunteers at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church had already fed or delivered meals to 340 people Thursday morning.

“Our reservations were up this year,” said Jan Morris, who organizes Jo’s Community Dinners, a community effort to provide hot meals to anyone in need on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Organizer Jan Morris enjoys one of the perks of volunteering - a moment to sit down with leftover pecan pie bars.

Organizer Jan Morris enjoys one of the perks of volunteering – a moment to sit down with leftover pecan pie bars.

Morris said she thinks the increase is based upon two things – a greater need in the community, and word of the outreach having spread.

The event was started about 25 years ago and originally called ACORN dinners. It was originally spearheaded by Josephine Mosdell, who asked Morris to take over before she died.

“The funny thing was that Josephine wanted to do this, but she didn’t even boil water,” Morris said. “The year before she died, she asked me to take over.”

Morris said she feels as if she is keeping a promise by continuing the event.

“I enjoy doing it, and like to help people,” she said. “I feel like it’s a promise I made to Josephine.”

Officer Mike Abraham was pulling double duty on Thursday.

Officer Mike Abraham was pulling double duty on Thursday.

Tammy Portemont leads the efforts in the kitchen.

“I just feel like it’s a way to give back to the community,” she said.

She and others who work in the kitchen prepared four cases of green beans, four cases of yams, 14 turkey breasts and 10 pans of dressing.

After all of that effort, many volunteers sit down and enjoy a meal at the church, or prepare meals for, or enjoy meals with their families.

“I always go to my mom’s,” Portemont said. “We have different food than we serve here.”

Sharon Parham and her husband delivered meals to shut-ins before sitting down to enjoy turkey and dressing.

“It’s just a blessing to be here,” she said.

George Harmon Proctor said he remembers when the ACORN dinners began and volunteers worked out of the kitchen at First Baptist Church.

“In the late 90s, if we served 100 people, Josephine would get so excited,” Proctor recalled. “That used to be a lot. She would be super excited that there were more than 340 people here today.”

The Rev. Cindy Howard, rector of St. Mary’s, said that normally, by Thanksgiving Day, she is overwhelmed with grief for all of those with whom she has spoken about their needs.

“This morning in my homily, I used something from The Talmud,” she said. “It says, ‘Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

Those who need meals delivered are asked to call the church to leave their names and addresses, she said.

“This week, I took a phone call from a woman in real distress,” she said. The woman’s power had been turned off, and she used all the money she had to pay a reconnection fee, leaving her nothing with which to buy groceries.

“When she called, she was just feeling overwhelmed,” Howard said. “We had some food left over from rice and beans, so we put together a couple of bags of food for her.

“When I called to make sure she had gotten it, she told me she was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and it was the best thing she had eaten in a long time,” Howard said. “I didn’t realize it, but we only had one loaf of bread left from Saturday’s food giveaway. That’s when you know that God provides.”