Macon Outreach feeds Thanksgiving meals to hundreds of hungry and homeless

rmanley@macon.comNovember 16, 2012 

  • Preparing Thanksgiving Day meals

    Several charitable organizations will be serving up free Thanksgiving Day meals next week.
    Here’s a sampler:

    • Macon Rescue Mission: All told, the mission expects to serve 400-500 meals from 11:30-2 p.m. at its location, 774 Hazel St. The mission also takes 100-150 warm meals to residents out in the community, said Rosary Hernandez, the mission’s development director. It also expects to give out 400-500 boxes of food during the month maybe more. Donations are welcome.
    • Salvation Army: Meals will be served from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Salvation Army, located at 1955 Broadway. About 250 meals were prepared last year, and the agency expects a greater turnout this year. Donations of food are welcome turkeys and canned goods, for example as long as the food hasn’t been prepared.
    • St. Joseph Catholic Church: Meals will be served in the church’s social hall from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The church expects hundreds of visitors.

Kevine Wilson knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end.

Wilson, 38, moved his wife and four children to Macon from Chicago seven years ago, looking for a slower paced life. Instead he found a struggle with divorce that cost him his home and family.

Once homeless, Wilson is back on his feet, “trusting God” and running his own towing company. On Friday, he was at Mulberry United Methodist Church, serving Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings to an estimated 400 needy diners, many of them homeless.

“I know what it is to be on the other side of the table, the being-served side,” said Wilson. “I know the battles of being homeless, being in gangs.”

The holiday dinner is an annual function of Macon Outreach, a ministry of the church. The outreach feeds about 200 people each day in its downstairs kitchen but serves sit-down meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas in the church fellowship hall.

“This is a special meal today,” said Harold Chapman, chairman of the Macon Outreach board of directors, while seating guests. “We serve them. Downstairs they go through a line.”

Following a brief service, guests were served turkey, dressing, green beans, yams and dessert. About 50 volunteers worked at the dinner, and guests waiting for their seats spilled back into the sanctuary, around every aisle and out the front door.

“It’s a time for all of us to celebrate,” said Macon Outreach Executive Director Johnny Hathcock. ”The volunteers enjoy it as much as the guests. Many of them have told us this is where they get their holiday spirit.”

Hathcock attributed the strong turnout to the turn in the weather, as clear blue skies moved in after a pair of cold and dreary days.

“Ninety percent of the people who come here have to walk here,” he said.

To feed the crowd, Mulberry cooked up 33 turkeys, 25 pans of dressing, 13 pans of green beans, 12 pans of yams and 400 rolls.

“This is a ministry of Mulberry United Methodist Church,” Chapman said, “but we rely on churches outside of Macon to provide us the food and the funds to operate.”

Al-Terese Carter arrived with her sons, age 13 and 14. On total disability since 1996, Carter eats at Macon Outreach and also takes advantage of its grocery program.

“We’re struggling,” the 47-year-old Carter said, ”but we’re not homeless. Thank you, Jesus!”

Carter said the ministry shows the less fortunate that “somebody has a heart.”

“You’re giving from the heart. You’re not giving for any other reason,” she said.

Hathcock took a moment to commend Leadership Macon for its effort to bring “donation stations” downtown. Often called “homeless meters,” the stations raise awareness while encouraging people to donate their spare change for ministries and charities that help the homeless.

“Leadership Macon is really making a difference for us,” Hathcock said. “We’re coming closer and closer together in the downtown area.”

That closeness is evident in Wilson, a stout man happily seating guests and delivering meals to tables Friday. Wilson, who is black, is a regular at the predominantly white Mulberry Methodist and sometimes speaks at the Outreach chapel services.

“This is my church,” he said proudly.

To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.

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