Community unites for meal, fellowship
Posted: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 9:12 pm
It’s almost dinner time.
Although Thanksgiving is still over two weeks away, it takes a lot of planning and help from the community to pull off dinner for 5,000.
The annual Community Feeding of the 5,000 has been set for Nov. 20 and will be available free to anyone in the community who would benefit from a homecooked meal and fellowship.
It is based on the biblical account of Jesus’ feeding a multitude with a boy’s lunch of fish and bread.
This year’s community-wide meal will be served to anyone who has need from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Union City First Baptist Church’s family life center at 509 East Church St., as well as at several satellite locations around Union City and Obion County.
The satellite sites for serving will include the Union City Housing Auth-ority community center and locations in the cities of Hornbeak, Troy, Obion, Kenton, Tiptonville and Ridgely.
The pre-holiday meal on Nov. 20 will feature a traditional Thanksgiving menu of turkey, cornbread dressing, gravy, green beans, cooked apples, cranberry sauce, rolls and homebaked pies.
In the meantime, vol-unteers are stepping for-ward from throughout the community — in-cluding churches of all denominations, schools, scout groups, civic organ-izations, businesses and even individuals — to prepare food or make monetary donations for supplies.
Feeding of the 5,000 started 13 years ago, with nearly 900 meals served in the community during the inaugural event and has steadily grown over the years to the 5,000-plus meals served in 2011.
Planning committee member Hattie Lou Brown said organizers are making plans to serve 5,000 meals again this year, especially considering the tough economic conditions and the number of unemployed this year.
The Christ-centered effort was launched by Union City First Baptist Church and is still largely based at the church since it has two kitchens, but organizers are quick to point out the effort now involves volunteers from all denominations throughout the community.
“I think all of us want this to be a community event,” Union City FBC pastor Dr. Cecil Sewell said. “Even though we spearheaded it, we’ve tried to involve the whole area — not just the community, but the whole area.”
Mrs. Brown said she has received responses for help this year from 42 churches of various denominations.
“I think that’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.”
Over the years, the serving of the meal has evolved to a fine-tuned operation which involves hundreds of meals being packaged in takeout boxes for shut-ins throughout the community, as well as hundreds of to-go boxes being sent to the satellite feeding locations throughout Obion County and the surrounding area.
“It’s a fast-moving operation,” Dr. Sewell said.
Packaging of the take-out meals will begin as early as 8 a.m. Nov. 20 in the old kitchen of the host church’s main building in Union City. From there, volunteers will deliver them throughout the area with the use of volunteers’ personal vehicles, church vans and even school buses offered by the Union City School System.
“They take meals all over,” Mrs. Brown said. “Ridgely’s senior citizens center is the farthest place probably.”
Meals are delivered to the elderly and shut-ins throughout the area, as well as to local senior citizens centers and housing facilities and even the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Tennessee. Each carry-out box will bear a Bible verse lovingly placed there by the host church’s Girls in Action group.
“A lot of people eat from this meal,” Mrs. Brown explained.
The names of those in the community who would benefit from a meal may be submitted by calling the host church’s family life center at 884-0820.
How to help
The community generously supports Feeding of the 5,000 each year, and Mrs. Brown said the greatest needs right now are monetary donations to purchase food and volunteers to serve on Nov. 20.
A donation of $20 will purchase a turkey for the meal, and many donors prefer to designate their contribution specifically for that purpose, according to planning committee member Maggie Vaughan. Organizers purchase only government-inspected pre-cooked turkey.
Donations may be mailed to Community Feeding of the 5,000, P.O. Box 194, Union City, TN 38281.
Many local churches are currently supplying gallon baggies of crumbled cornbread which will be used to make the 300 gallons of dressing needed for the meal. About 3,000 servings of dressing will be prepared by kitchen staffs at Union City’s three schools with the use of donated supplies, while the remaining 2,000 servings will be prepared by longtime volunteer cook Wanda Wyatt.
Other churches have volunteered to bake the 625 pies which will be needed as the sweet finish to the meal on Nov. 20. They will be sliced and individually boxed by volunteers the day before the meal.
Still other volunteers from churches and the community will step forward just prior to the meal to cook the 200 gallons of green beans and 200 gallons of apples which will be served. Mrs. Brown noted that the Union City Fire Department has even been involved in cooking many gallons of green beans the last several years.
“They know how to cook green beans and they can do it well,” she said.
Many volunteers will be needed starting early Nov. 20 to help pack and deliver meals or to help serve meals throughout the day at Union City FBC’s family life center. Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to call the family life center at 884-0820 and leave their name on the answering machine.
Volunteers traditionally come from many different churches and civic organizations, as well as local schools which send students from various organizations.
“Every year, we have such unique experiences, and there are a lot of people who step forward and get involved,” Dr. Sewell said.
“It takes a lot of volunteers and lots of help to plan this and pull it off,” Mrs. Brown added.
Can drives are also being conducted at local schools, with those canned goods and dry food items to be divided among Helping Hand Ministry and Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church’s feeding program, both in Union City; Reelfoot Rural Ministries in rural Obion County; We Care Ministries in Martin; and Northwest Tennessee Disaster Services.
Local scouts and other volunteers will work to separate the cans in a few days and they will be distributed to the selected agencies’ food pantries for distribution to those in need.
And there’s one final thing that is needed by those planning the 13th annual Community Feeding of the 5,000 — prayer.
“Pray for us,” Dr. Sewell said. “If you can’t come to help, you can still pray for us.”
Published in The Messenger 11.6.12