Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Waycross Church Cooks for Needy; Members Provide a Holiday Meal

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Waycross Church Cooks for Needy; Members Provide a Holiday Meal

Article excerpt

Byline: Patricia Neleski, Times-Union correspondent

Members of First United Methodist Church of Waycross want to make sure the hungry, the dejected and the lonely have a place to go for a home-cooked meal on Thanksgiving Day. So they cook it themselves.

For the past three years, church members have donated food, time and energy to provide a meal to anyone in need.

The word has gotten out. Richard Ford, a resident of a Waycross halfway house, is planning to attend.

"We all know about that dinner," he said. "We've been planning to attend. It's a wonderful feeling to get to go. There's a lot of people that don't have families, or are alienated from their families -- I'm one of them. It's a lonely world. It's nice to be with other people on Thanksgiving. It's nice that they do this."

The church members don't mind all the work involved in preparing two Thanksgiving feasts -- one for the community and one for themselves.

"It's a humbling experience for us," said Kim Gibson, who has helped coordinate the event all three years. She and co-planner Ginger Rollins invite clients from the city's social service agencies, put fliers in prominent places for the homeless to find them and seek people out any way they can.

Gibson, a former social worker, knows the subtle shades of need. She knows the church group will be feeding families from a battered women's shelter, who need to feel wanted. She knows they will be feeding the lonely, like Ford, who are alienated from their families.

And she knows this meal will feed the truly hungry: homeless men who have ridden trains down from the north.

"It's an eye-opening experience for people," Gibson said. "Seeing these people in need, I'm thankful that I have a family and that I don't have to think 'OK, I had Thanksgiving dinner, now where do I eat next?' "

Church members have enthusiastically offered time, money and sweet potatoes to the project. …

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