Local church provides hundreds of Thanksgiving meals

The volunteers and members at Evangel Church of God on North Smithville Road work at a serving line preparing to-go Thanksgiving meals for those in need on Thursday. The church has hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for the past 12 years and switched to a drive-through to prepare and deliver more than 600 meals a year. ED RICHTER/STAFF
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The volunteers and members at Evangel Church of God on North Smithville Road work at a serving line preparing to-go Thanksgiving meals for those in need on Thursday. The church has hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for the past 12 years and switched to a drive-through to prepare and deliver more than 600 meals a year. ED RICHTER/STAFF

For about a dozen years, members of the Evangel Church of God express their love for the community and those who are in need by serving a free Thanksgiving lunch to those needing a meal.

Senior Pastor David Renfro said prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the church would host people inside to serve up the Thanksgiving meal.

Last year, COVID-19 forced the church to do a drive through as volunteers prepared the to-go boxes for people as they drove in to the church parking lot located at 132 N. Smithville Road.

Volunteers at Evangel Church of God bring Thanksgiving to-go meals to waiting cars on Thursday. The church has hosted a Thanksgiving lunch for more than a dozen years to help those in need in the community. ED RICHTER/STAFF
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Volunteers at Evangel Church of God bring Thanksgiving to-go meals to waiting cars on Thursday. The church has hosted a Thanksgiving lunch for more than a dozen years to help those in need in the community. ED RICHTER/STAFF

“If there is one thing we’ve learned from COVID-19, you’ve gotta be flexible,” Renfro said.

The entire operation runs like a well-oiled machine. When a car pulls into the parking lot, the number of meals requested are radioed in to the kitchen crew. Inside the building, volunteers then take the meal boxes down the service line. The meals and pies are taken to another table where they are bagged and passed on to a team of volunteers who deliver them to the waiting cars.

“We have a kitchen crew and a serving crew and it works really well,” Renfro said. “We have volunteers from our church and from other churches.”

He said he was not sure of how many people to expect in terms of turnout for the lunch but the church hoped to feed 500 to 600 people Thursday. By 12:40 p.m., they had already served 133 meals that included turkey, ham, green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, rolls and pumpkin pie.

Renfro said Thanksgiving lunch is an extension of the church’s food-pantry ministry that operates out of the church on Mondays and serves an average of 150 people a week.

Coordinating the crews inside is Sarah Tait who is making sure the operation is running smoothly.

Tait said the biggest challenge is getting all the turkeys defrosted on time. While she does not anticipate running out of food, it did happen last year, prompting a run to the grocery store to keep the line moving.

When asked why she coordinates the meal, Tait said the Bible commands people to help others. She said the church wants to minister to hurting people, but their physical needs, such as food, needs to be taken care first before helping them spiritually.

Volunteer Pam McIntosh said volunteers and church members worked all day Wednesday prepping for the meal. She said the church prepared about 40 turkeys cooked using turkey fryers as well as church members using their home ovens.

In addition to the turkeys that the church purchases, they also receive a number of turkeys that are prepared and dropped off by others. McIntosh said the church conducts fundraisers during the year to raise money to cover the costs of the meal.

“We do it because we love our community and in Matthew 25, we are told to feed the hungry.”

Carrie McIntosh, Pam’s daughter, said there are also a lot of homeless people in the area that need help.

Renfro said all meals not distributed at the church would be packed up and taken downtown for the homeless to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.

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