CULLMAN – More than 100 volunteers and approximately 30 drivers will serve 80 turkeys, gallons of dressing, vats of cranberry sauce and mountains of Cullman sweet potatoes today at St. John’s Evangelical Protestant Church in Cullman.
An army of volunteers and the Community Thanksgiving Meal Steering Committee, made of up members of various churches throughout the community and spearheaded by John Hunt, have worked tirelessly for the last few days to prepare a meal for the community- with those who might be alone or in need uppermost in their minds.
“Why do we do this on Thanksgiving Day instead of the day before?” asked Hunt. “We wanted to do it on the actual holiday because we felt that’s when the loneliness would set in for those with nowhere to go or family to be with.”
The committee estimates from data recorded over previous years that they will feed between 1,000-1,200 people from throughout the Cullman County area today.
“This is such a blessing to be able to do this,” said Hunt humbly. “We haven’t done it alone, though, other churches, individual donations and Sunday school classes, as well as several civic organizations have helped us to provide this meal.”
Among those who will partake of the Thanksgiving meal this year are members of the 911 staff, firemen and police officers, the homebound, residents and staff of The Foundry Farm, members of the Hispanic community and 375 inmates at Cullman County Detention Center.
“It has taught me a lot,” Hunt said. “This actually started out at First Baptist Church many years ago, but was moved to St. John’s because they have the capacity to serve more people.”
“This is a great way to experience working alongside members of other churches,” said St. John’s Administrative Assistant, Karen Hassell as she bustled around helping to get things organized for the meal. “It’s a wonderful thing for our community.”
The idea for the community meal was the brainchild of a man by the name of Grover Reeves, who was a workhorse of a leader and volunteer in many areas, but specifically with the Lion’s Club Ham and Fish Dinner and the Thanksgiving Meal programs. “He was retired from the military and moved here with his job,” explained Hunt. “He looked around and realized that the community needed something like this so he began to organize it.”
That was about 25 years ago, and the event has continued to grow and become one of the most extensive outreach programs of its kind in the area.
One of the last wishes Reeves made before his death this year was to John Hunt, requesting that he make sure that the tradition would carry on. The Steering Committee has every intention of honoring the wishes of this devoted member of the community who did so much for others. His legacy extends to the entire community as an example of what Christianity is all about.
Meals are delivered to the homebound by a host of volunteer drivers. According to Hunt, last year one of the drivers, a Cullman businessman, showed up to deliver meals for the first time and was suddenly overcome with emotion when he realized that the recipient of one of the boxes was also one of his employees. “He became very emotional,” described Hunt. “It changed the way he looked at his employees, it changed his heart…”
The meal will be served from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at St. John’s Evangelical Protestant Church, 512 Second Ave. SE in Cullman. For more information, call 256-734-0344.
Everyone is invited and warmly welcome.
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