Local churches serve up community meals


Nearly 10 years ago, the owner of a Brownstown restaurant decided to show the community there was someone who cared by organizing a community thanksgiving meal

In the early years, Mike Patton, who owned Mitchie’s Diner, and a solid core of volunteers might serve 250 to 300 free meals on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving Day.

Patton, who also was pastor of the Community Church of Brownstown, grew the Community Thanksgiving event over the years by soliciting the support of others churches, particularly Brownstown Christian Church and New Life Missionary Baptist Church.

Although Mitchie’s is no longer open for business and Patton has since retired as pastor, the community thanksgiving meal has become a tradition that continues to grow significantly each year.

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Terry Fordice, who replaced Patton as pastor, said Wednesday afternoon he looked for each of the three main churches serving as meal sites to serve up about 400 meals for a total of 1,200 or perhaps more.

The event, however, is about more than just feeding the body, said Fordice, who was associate pastor of the Community Church of Brownstown. He also worked side-by-side with Patton when it came to starting and growing the Community Thanksgiving. Patton also remains involved despite being retired.

“What it comes down to is we want to show the love of Jesus Christ,” Fordice said. “It’s not about recognition or getting a pat on the back. It’s about somebody saying ‘Oh you care.’ Yes we care. God cares for us and we want to share that caring and love with others.”

Each of the three churches were responsible for seeing that the food was cooked, packed up and delivered or in the case of Community Church, was cooked and ready to serve eat for those who wanting to dine in or take a meal home.

Melissa Collins with New Life Missionary Baptist Church coordinated information from those requesting meals for delivery.

Collins said on her Facebook page that the event takes a lot of hard work, with volunteers, churches and businesses coming together to make it happen.

“Donations of caring people help supply the needs for the cause,” she said. “We start off with a certain number of meals and usually by the end of the night those figures double. God seems to always provide. When the food gets low, more shows up.”

Brownstown Christian Church is responsible for delivering meals to people in the Brownstown area while New Life takes care of delivering meals throughout the remainder of the county, Fordice said.

“There are several other churches who do whatever is asked of them,” he said. “They make food or donate things and people from the community do the same thing. We couldn’t do this without the help of everybody. So it’s a group effort.”

About 70 volunteers, divided into two shifts, prepared and delivered meals Wednesday from Brownstown Christian.

Brownstown Christian Church member Larry Hinkle said the Community Thanksgiving is a good idea and volunteering to help out is the Christian thing to do.

“There are a lot of people in need and those who aren’t so much in need who just enjoy the food,” he said. “People can get a little lonesome this time of year.”

Doug Pogue, associate pastor at Brownstown Christian, said that church became involved several years ago in part because of the church’s large kitchen.

“We just kinda of picked up the cooking part of it and started taking care of the deliveries,” he said.

Margaret Gregory, who serves as head cook for Brownstown Christian Church, said food preparation began a couple of weeks beforehand and involved about six people.

“The onions and celery for the dressing, I did that a couple of weeks ago and froze them,” she said. “We started turkeys Saturday and then did them again Monday.”

The meal features turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, green beans, a roll and pumpkin pie. The inventory for food needed at Brownstown Christian Church included 22 turkeys and 63 pumpkins pies.

Any leftover food was going to be sent to The Alley, a Seymour church that served a free Thanksgiving Day meal, Gregory said.

“I know some of our people are going up there to help,” she said.

Gregory said the work, which involves a lot of early mornings and late days, is very rewarding.

The church uses some of money from it benevolent fund to pay for the food along with donations from individuals and Jay C Food Store and Walmart, Pogue said. The overall cost for the meals at the three sites excluding donations was going to be about $3,000, he said.

Members of the other congregations also prepare and donate food.

That includes Fordice’s daughter, Amber Everhart of Brownstown, and Susie Cowles of Seymour.

Running the dine-in site this year was a first for the pair.

“We’re preparing for 500 (people),” Cowles said.

Everhart said planning had taken several weeks, but finding volunteers to help was not a problem.

All of the hard work paid off according to a couple of people visiting the Community Church for a free meal.

“It’s good. Very good,” said Mary Silence of Brownstown.

Nate Cockerham of Brownstown, who attended with his wife, Chastity Cockerham, of Brownstown agreed.

“The food was real good,” he said.

Fordice said the idea for a Community Thanksgiving arose more than nine years ago.

“There was a need in the community for people who would otherwise go hungry,” Fordice said. “So we started with that and then we started a soup and sandwich meal every Wednesday night.”

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