HAMLET — Free Thanksgiving meals are available for people struggling to make ends meet or faced with other difficult circumstances beginning at 3 p.m. Wednesday at King’s Gate Church in Hamlet.
The Rev. Eddie McLean, pastor of King’s Gate, explained he understands how hard it can be when holidays come along and people find themselves estranged from family, or even without a family to share them with. He also knows firsthand what it is like to be part of a non-traditional family structure that can add to the pressure of celebratory seasons.
“The way the families are, the homes are all different,” McLean said. “We want to make sure the kids are fed, as well as the adults. If you live in a situation, you understand the situation. I’ve got four grandchildren living with me, and that’s more and more common. A lot of grandparents are raising grandchildren. That can be hard. This is our way of helping the community.”
This isn’t the first time McLean and his church have stepped up to ensure people have a place to get a fresh Thanksgiving meal.
“We’ve done it off and on for years,” he exlained. “We’ve been in the ministry for 34 years. We’re still a part of feeding the homeless every other Tuesday at the soup kitchen in Hamlet. The way we got started with Thanksgiving is we just began to realize that there were going to be people who wouldn’t have the means for a Thanksgiving meal, and some of the leaders in our church got together and planned this meal for those who will not be having one at home.”
As far as the expected turnout, McLean was hesitant to narrow it to a fixed number.
“It could range from 75 to 150 people,” he said. “We’re going to be deep-frying turkeys and feeding them until there’s no more food. I think they’ve planned for 150 to 200 people. They’re just going to feed people until there’s no food left.”
On the menu, diners can expect to find turkey, ham, dressing, dessert, string beans, candied yams, rolls and other items people usually enjoy for Thanksgiving.
“It’s your basic Thanksgiving meal,” he said. “Some of the major ones in our church putting it together are Charles Knight, Chris Jacobs, Dennis Jacobs, James Gould, Darlene Lemaster and Theresa Knight. The church helps, and they as individuals help. Most of them take their own money and put into it, and take up money for it.”
He said that although the hours listed are from 3 to 5 p.m., people are welcome to come as long as there’s food.
“Also, it’s a take-out turkey meal,” McLean added. “You can stay and eat there, but you can come and take it away. We’ll be serving a Thanksgiving meal in a take-out tray. We’re definitely thinking about people who may not have a Thanksgiving meal to feed their family, or maybe they don’t have a family. I guess you could call it feeding the community — a chance to reach the community in another way, to help the community and the challenges it faces today.”
He also said the church has a seniors group who meet there regularly, and that all seniors from across the county are welcome to the dinner.
“Hopefully we can spread some thankfulness this year for Thanksgiving,” he added. “We’ll be serving meals out of the teen center in back of the church.”
King’s Gate Church is located at 161 Sierra Avenue off U.S. 74 in Hamlet, not far from Griffin Toyota. For more information, call 910-582-1740.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.