“Me and my wife have had nothing to eat in three or four days,” Arthur Dolin said as he ate a traditional Thanksgiving meal at the Sportsman’s Club on Thursday.
The lunch, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., was sponsored by Reach Out Apostolic Tabernacle in Axton. It drew about 60 people in the first 30 minutes and was one of several Thanksgiving dinners held in the area Thursday.
Dolin, 38, of Martinsville, said he has heart problems and is on disability. He said he and his wife, Kimberly, who has not been able to find a job, receive food stamps, but their allotment for the month had run out.
“We’ve just been drinking water” that last few days, he said.
In addition, he said, “My vehicle is on empty. ... The house (we rent) has no heat in it,” he said.
“I’m just happy to have it,” Kimberly Dolin said as she ate the Thanksgiving meal.
The Dolins also received takeout meals because of their lack of food.
According to Elder Anthea Barbour, who was in charge of the meal, and other sources, eight turkeys, three hams, 50 or so pounds of green beans, about 25-30 pounds of corn, two large containers of stuffing (12 packs), about 30 pounds of red potatoes, 200 rolls, eight cakes, tea and soft drinks were prepared or served. The cakes included butter pecan, chocolate, lemon pound, Hershey chocolate and spice.
Enough food was prepared for about 200 people, Barbour said.
According to Barbour and Bishop Lorenzo Hall, pastor of Reach Out Apostolic, the church has been sponsoring community meals at the Sportsman’s Club at 47 Fayette St. for several months. Barbour said the monthly meals, which have varied menus, usually attract 80 to 100 people.
Barbour said she got the idea for the meals because, “The Lord has blessed me, so I want to be a blessing to others.”
“We want to show our love to the community through Christ,” Hall said.
About 25 volunteers from the church and community helped put on the Thanksgiving meal, Barbour said.
Church member Tuesday Hairston of Horsepasture was handing out plastic foam plates and plastic utensils.
“To me, Thanksgiving is being with family, friends and loved ones,” she said. She added she was volunteering “so I can be a blessing to someone who is less fortunate so they can have a happy holiday.”
“I’m just spreading God’s love,” said church member Vanessa Dillard of Martinsville, who was dishing out potatoes.
Volunteers at Bassett Memorial United Methodist Church’s free community Thanksgiving Day lunch made similar comments.
“I think everybody ought to have a good Thanksgiving meal, if they don’t have family and friends, to have somebody to be with,” said Meryl Bullard, the church’s choir director and organist. She has been in charge of the Thanksgiving meal for most of the more than 25 years the church has been doing the project.
She said 60 pounds of turkey breast, more than 130 pounds of green beans, more than 120 pounds of corn, 5 gallons of turkey gravy and six big turkey pans of dressing were prepared, and 400 pieces of pumpkin pie and 400 yeast rolls were purchased to serve. Also several types of desserts, soft drinks, tea and water were served.
About 40 volunteers, about half from the church and half from the community, were involved in the project, Bullard said. “It probably took 12 to 15 hours to get everything cooked,” she said.
Food Lion in Bassett donated money toward the vegetables. Akers Super Market kept turkeys in its coolers until the church, which didn’t have enough storage space, could pick them up. Holly Poultry gave a discount on the turkeys, Bullard said.
“We spend around $1,000 to $1,200 to put this on,” Bullard said. She added the money is donated, mainly by church members but also by people in the community.
Ruby Davis said she was volunteering because, “We (the church) try to give back to the community.” Her children, Aubrey, 12, and Sarah, 16, also were volunteering.
“You’re helping other people,” Sarah said when asked why she was participating. “It shows the real meaning of Thanksgiving instead of just eating (at home).”
Volunteer Betsy Mattox, vice chairman of the Henry County School Board, said: “I’ve been involved about five years. We’re very fortunate in the community, and we like to give back to people who need things at times. ... It’s a blessing for us to do something for the community.”
The church also does a free community meal once a month, she said.
Jay Coburn of Bassett said the Thanksgiving meal he was eating “means a lot.” The meal helped him out financially — he’s unemployed and on food stamps — and he enjoyed the fellowship, he said.
He was at a table with Lawrence Sledge Jr. of Bassett. “I’m not rich. I’m not poor either,” Sledge said, adding that he also was enjoying both the meal and fellowship.
Both said they come to the monthly community meals at the church.
Bullard said about 325 people were served at the Thanksgiving meal: 100 eat-in and the rest takeout. “We bought for 400,” she added.
Henry County Food Pantry and Orchard Drive Baptist Church, both in Bassett, and Chatham Heights Baptist Church also provided free Thanksgiving meals.