This Thanksgiving, some residents in Richmond Hill plan to give thanks and give back.
Volunteers with Food for the Soul will give their time Thursday so those in need can enjoy a hearty holiday meal. The volunteers will spend about two hours cooking food and one hour packing the food into Styrofoam "to go" boxes. The meals will then be distributed to Richmond Hill residents who would otherwise have nothing to eat.
"The number of meals (needed) has steadily grown over time," said Mary Burns, co-chair of Food for the Soul.
Meals are delivered throughout the city every week. Last week, 297 meals were distributed, compared to about 190 meals last Thanksgiving.
"That (amount last week) was the most we’ve ever delivered at one time," Burns noted.
Burns expects that around 300 meals or more will be requested this Thanksgiving. Recipients will each get a large scoop of barbecue, dressing, green beans, fruit, a slice of pumpkin pie and a roll.Diana South, chair of Food for the Soul, explained that residents need
only make a phone call to the Richmond Hill United Methodist Church to get on the delivery list. She said that volunteers with the program ask no questions and make no judgments as to why a particular person or family has a need for the food.
"Some people think of Richmond Hill as 'Rich Man Hill,'" said South.
She said that if you want to see how some less fortunate live in this growing community, tag along on one of the five delivery routes that volunteer drivers take each week.
The Food for the Soul program was created six years ago and made its debut Thanksgiving 2003. Resident Heidi Thomson saw a need to provide food for some of the people in the community and started the program at RHUMC.
Since its inception, Food for the Soul has grown to include five Richmond Hill churches that share the responsibilities involved with running the program.
The churches include St. Anne’s Catholic Church, Corinth Baptist Church, Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church, Bethel Baptist Church and RHUMC.
Each church takes a week during the month and provides the facility and electricity for preparing the food. South said that although the program budget varies by church, funds may cover use of a church van, gas and money for food supplies. When money falls short, the churches look to donations for the purchase of food.
Area businesses also donate supplies for the program. South said that Publix, Baldino’s Subs and R & R Restaurant Supplies are very supportive and provide bread, desserts and to go boxes for the meals.
Most of the people served by this program have no transportation, according to South. Initially, meals were prepared at the church and very few people stopped by to pick up the food. Whether they felt uncomfortable showing up to the church or could not drive over, South said that volunteers are able to help far more people by driving out to their homes.
Burns and South said that many different people are served by this program. The elderly, the ill, as well as families receive meals on a weekly basis. At least two to three people are added to the list each week, though one or two come off the list.
Food for the Soul offers not only weekly meals, but pet food and prayer as well.
"These people need prayer and companionship, to know that someone cares," said South.
"It’s amazing to see the different people that volunteer and go out and see the need in the community," Burns said.
If you are interested in becoming involved with Food for Soul, contact RHUMC at 756-2190. Drivers and delivery people are always needed on a weekly basis. The group accepts donations.