Thanksgiving meal: ‘They come here for a sense of community, a sense of fellowship’

Organizations provide food to those in need for a variety of reasons.

Many organizations giving out meals on Thursday for Thanksgiving were hopeful their efforts would foster community and give back to locals.

House of Bread in West Dayton and Evangel Church of God in East Dayton were two organizations offering sit-down Thanksgiving lunches to all who wanted to come.

Melodie Bennett, executive director of House of Bread, said the people coming to Thanksgiving at House of Bread are often people who come to most of the lunches that the organization serves every day.

Those who come to the daily hot lunches at House of Bread, served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., include people who don’t have others in their households, people on fixed incomes, people who are homeless, people whose electricity was turned off or their stove broke, and people who live near Riverside Park.

“There’s a zillion reasons why they’re not able to provide their own Thanksgiving dinner,” Bennett said. “They come here for a sense of community, a sense of fellowship.”

David Renfro, pastor of Evangel Church of God on North Smithville Road, said the church’s focus is on providing services and ministry to those in the East Dayton and Riverside communities around the church, including finding a need in the area and meeting it.

In addition to the dinner, the church provides resources for people to get jobs, clothing, and other needs, including a weekly food pantry Mondays from 5 to 8 p.m.

“Every community needs a lighthouse,” Renfro said. “And we feel like we can be a lighthouse giving people hope and a helping hand.”

An estimated 250 and 300 people were expected at House of Bread on Thursday, Bennett said. Most of those people are people who come daily, though Bennett said some people can go to family homes during the holidays and new people may come in.

Evangel Church of God Thanksgiving organizer Sarah Tait said between 400 and 600 people typically came to the meal before 2020. However, this was the first year the event had returned to a family-style meal in the church, instead of offering meals in a drive-through format in the parking lot.

“We enjoy the family style so we can really love on people and just enjoy their company and let them know that it’s not just about feeding you,” Tait said. “We want to love on you, too.”

Both Tait and Bennett said the dinners – traditional turkey, potatoes, sauces, stuffing and green beans – were made possible through donations. Bennett said she is able to stock up on the everyday items the kitchen uses all the time during this time of year, like coffee and vegetable oil.

“The need is there all year long,” Bennett said. “It’s just highlighted more during Thanksgiving.”

Donations are accepted to House of Bread at houseofbread.org, and to Evangel Church at evangelcogdayton.org.

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