With cooking gloves on his hands, Charlie Wagoner pulled two turkeys out of an oven and began striping meat and placing it into a crock to keep it warm.
“There’s nothing better to do than serve people unconditionally,” he said. Wagoner arrived at The Alley in Seymour a little after 8 a.m. Thursday to help prepare and serve 200 meals for the church’s fourth annual Thanksgiving Day dinner for people in need. Wagoner also baked nearly a dozen pies for the meal.
“This is an opportunity to make sure everybody knows they’re loved, know people care about them and we don’t want anybody not to have a blessed day on Thanksgiving,” he said.
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Kitchen manager Sarah Ellis Bowling said everything was donated from the community and volunteers were recruited to help serve meals.
“With all the turkeys we had donated, we’re going to feed everyone that comes in today and we will be able to have a turkey dinner every other month,” she said. Bowling said it was not difficult to get donations because the community has come to know The Alley’s commitment to serving Thanksgiving Day meals.
“I think it’s all about word-of-mouth now and the community is aware every year that we’re doing this,” she said. “We have a very giving community.”
Bowling said Brownstown Community Church brought in what it had leftover from the Thanksgiving Community meal served Wednesday evening throughout the county. That include a number of sides that volunteers at The Alley didn’t have to make.
“We are feeding an army,” she said. “That’s a huge help to have this extra stuff and we’re very thankful.”
For Bowling, The Alley’s annual Thanksgiving meal has become her holiday tradition.
“These people are my family and this is what I do on Thanksgiving now,” she said, adding her family is so big they host Thanksgiving prior to the holiday. “I would absolutely have it no other way.”
Amber Ingalsbe, a board member at The Alley, said she looks forward to the meal each year because she knows people need it, particularly those who are or have been addicted to drugs. She can sympathize because she has been there, she said.
“I know when I was in active addiction I was too ashamed to go home for the holidays and be around,” she said. “Here, they can come and it doesn’t matter and we won’t judge them, but just greet them with open arms, feed them and love them.”
Ingalsbe shared a story of the church’s ministry not only on Thanksgiving, but throughout the year. She said a boy with younger brothers came by shortly after she started volunteering.
“I asked them what they wanted to eat thinking they’d be picky,” she said. “The boy said he didn’t care, they just needed something to eat.”
It was a powerful moment for Ingalsbe and it’s why she finds herself committed to serving a free meal to those in need on a holiday where she could be at home with her family.
“I’d probably be cooking at home, but since I’m helping here, my family is going to have Thanksgiving on Sunday,” she said. “I’m thankful for my relationship with Jesus Christ, my sobriety and my family. That’s all that matters.”
Wagoner said his favorite part about helping at The Alley through its meal ministry is the fact they will accept anyone without hesitation.
“You can come here no matter what and with whatever has gone on in your life,” he said. “That’s the beauty of it. We accept you wherever you’re at.”