Churches serving Thanksgiving meals next week

While studying social work at Ivy Tech Community College, Melissa Collins of Brownstown completed a project of organizing a free Thanksgiving meal for the community.

That year, 150 people were served.

When it later moved to Michie’s Diner, around 1,000 people were served.

Now, 12 years later, the church she attends, Community Church of Brownstown, and New Life Missionary Baptist Church are joining efforts to ensure people receive a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

From 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, meals will be available for pickup in a drive-thru format at New Life Missionary Baptist Church, 709 W. Bridge St., or people can stop by Community Church of Brownstown, 117 W. Tanner St., to eat in or carry out.

Collins expects to serve 800 people.

“Last year, I figured with COVID, we wouldn’t have a good turnout, and we did,” she said. “We did 495 altogether last year, and to me, that’s a low number. … I just kind of went in the middle, I’m thinking 700, 800 maybe, to prepare for that and just hope for the best. I would like to reach that number.”

That’s one of two free Thanksgiving meals offered by Jackson County churches next week. The Alley is having its 11th annual meal starting at 2 p.m. Thursday.

In Brownstown, the meal will consist of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, bread and butter and dessert. Food will be prepared at both churches and at Pewter Hall.

Those who want to pick up a meal or have it delivered may call Collins at 812-528-1189.

“We feed God’s people as long as God wants us to feed them, so we don’t put a time on it. We put a date, but we don’t put a time,” she said. “I get phone calls during the whole thing. It’s really neat because somebody will get a meal, and somebody doesn’t know that we’re doing it, and then they will call and they will get a meal, so it works out.”

Collins has nearly a dozen people signed up to volunteer, including a runner handing out meals in the parking lot at New Life, drivers delivering meals to shut-ins and people who can’t get to one of the churches and servers filling people’s plates at Community Church.

“I don’t know how to explain it, but God just makes them show up, and they show up,” she said, noting more volunteers are welcome.

Collins said she wouldn’t be able to pull the meal off every year without all of the volunteers and other supporters.

“The women’s group that I’m involved with, they have literally done so amazing,” she said. “They have reached out, and this is the most I’ve even seen the community help. It’s going to be big. I can feel it.”

Last year, she said she reached a point where she didn’t want to do the meal anymore, but knowing people are there to support the effort and people rely on the meal each year, she pushed forward.

“I was at church and I was not wanting to do this at all. I was done. I told myself I was not going to do it,” she said. “COVID was here. It was a good reason to stop doing it because there was no contact, you couldn’t see people and I made up all of these excuses.”

She even had COVID in November but got well a week before Thanksgiving, and she was released to go back to work. When she went back to the church, people had dropped off turkeys for the meal.

“I think God said, ‘You can’t give this up,’” Collins said, smiling. “It is true. He did not want me to stop when I thought I needed to stop, and it has been a blessing. … I just pray that God has it under control and we’re going to serve a lot of people.”

On Thanksgiving Day, The Alley will serve its free meal at First Baptist Church, 505 Community Drive, Seymour.

Organizer Sara Bowling said turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, green bean casserole, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and a variety of desserts will be available. Frances Prentice is in her sixth year of preparing the meal, and she has a team of people assisting.

Bowling said they expect to serve 350 meals, and the public is welcome. She also said Cornerstone Community Church in Seymour partnered with The Alley to feed residents of the Jackson-Jennings Community Corrections Work Release Center in Seymour, and they will brought to the church for the meal.

While she has a list of volunteers, Bowling said others are welcome, especially from noon to 5:30 p.m. She’s asking volunteers to work two-hour shifts.

“I always say there’s room for more volunteers,” she said. “We are just going to serve either until we’re not busy or we run out of food, so in my mind, it’s going to be from 2 to 4 p.m. If we have people coming and we still have food, we’re still going to serve.”

Anyone interested in volunteering or needing transportation to the church or a meal delivered should call Bowling at 812-946-0258. Delivery is only for senior citizens who don’t have a vehicle or can’t get to the church.

Also that day, Lori Deaton will sing, there will be free giveaways for dine-in guests and kids can sign up for the Angel Tree to receive a present from Santa at Christmastime.

“We are going to have carryout available, but we really, really want people to come in this year,” Bowling said. “We couldn’t do that last year because of COVID, but we will make that available for people who would rather go home. Then we have delivery available if you qualify.”

In terms of the food, Bowling said she has plenty of turkey but is in need of ham. Those wishing to donate a ham or make a monetary donation may drop it off at the church office in the mornings or at The Alley Kitchen in the afternoons.

Also for Thanksgiving, First Baptist Church is partnering with Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry in Seymour to distribute 200 baskets Tuesday. Those will include a ham, canned vegetables, butter and rolls and a homemade pumpkin pie.

“It will have everything you need for a Thanksgiving dinner,” the Rev. Jeremy Myers said.

First Baptist has given out Christmas baskets in the past, but when Myers learned Anchor House was struggling to find what they needed for Thanksgiving baskets, he jumped into action to see how his church could help.

“We posted it on social media, and then we announced it on Sunday, and the money and volunteers and food have been flying in,” he said.

“It has been cool, too, because we had several people from the community that don’t attend our church that wanted to be involved and have come in and dropped off (donations),” he said. “My goal is never that it be all about First Baptist Church, but that if at all possible, we can be just a jumping-off point for the whole community to get involved in whatever way possible.”

As of late Friday afternoon, 173 of the 200 baskets had been designated to someone. Anyone interested in a basket can call Anchor House at 812-522-9308 on Monday morning to see if any are still be available or be put on a waiting list.