“We never know how many will be coming,” Lisa Bunn said. She is speaking about the number of people who will enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving with all the delicious side dishes. “Sometimes it can be 1,200 to 1,300 meals. Part of the reason for the uncertainty is because the church does not need to check on whether the person receiving the meal meets some government definition of poverty. The church does not ask for any proof, it merely provides meals for those who ask for them.
There is also uncertainty on how many people will come to the church dining room to enjoy their turnkey dinner. Bunn said the number is somewhere around 300. She said poverty is once again not a concern. Bunn said some of those who do partake of the meal in the dining room are not poor. They are students qt Milligan College or East Tennessee State University who might otherwise have a lonely Thanksgiving. There are also older people or others without companionship who just enjoy having company for this traditional meal.
The church does have some help in getting the dinner prepared. Bunn said Food City prepares the turkey dinners. She said the ladies of the church prepare most of the side dishes. It still takes a lot of work to assemble this special meal even though much of the cooking has been done.
Bunn said about 100 volunteers begin putting the meals together. For several years the work has been directed by Roger Franklin. Each year he devotes two days of his time to overseeing the effort and making the meals beautiful and delectable.
Once the meals are assembled, they are turned over to another set of volunteers. These are adults drivers and teenage deliverers of meals throughout the county. Anyone familiar with the high mountain roads in Carter Count knows how daunting this job can be if the weather turns bad.
Most of the meals will be served between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m in what the church calls a Feast of Sharing. Then it is time for another very important group of volunteers: The cleanup crew has to make sure there is no trace left of the very large meal served by the church that day.
The spirit of feeding the multitude in a Feast of Sharing is part of the church’s message, Pastor Todd Hallman said. He said it is important for Americans to see that poverty is not just a Third World problem.