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80 volunteers feed Thanksgiving dinner to homeless

Earlier this week, a woman named Rhonda was listening to the news on the radio. She heard a story about a husband and wife in Williamsburg who had set up an event to give the area’s homeless a happy Thanksgiving.

Rhonda wished someone would do such a thing around Suffolk.

“I didn’t have anywhere to go,” she said. “I don’t have any family around here. Right now, I don’t have a place.”

The next day, Rhonda was driving with a friend when she passed the Popeye’s on Main Street. The restaurant’s sign told of a plan to feed Suffolk’s underprivileged Thanksgiving afternoon.

Still, Rhonda wasn’t sure.

“I wouldn’t go if my friend wasn’t coming,” she said.

Fortunately, he did n and on Thursday afternoon, the two sat down with New Life of Suffolk pastor Michael Ola for a special meal.

“It’s great,” Rhonda said, feasting on the restaurant’s friend chicken and mashed potatoes. “It makes me feel good. If they hadn’t done this, I don’t know where I would have eaten.”

Ola’s church was one of several to take part in the event.

“We came to help our people,” said Denice Nowell-Grant of Shiloh Baptist Church in Boykins. “Everybody’s our people. To see people coming out to help everyone and working together is a blessing.”

It wouldn’t be Charlene Saunders’ only Turkey Day event.

“I’ll celebrate later with my family,” said the Mount Ararat church member. “This has been a great experience.”

While some New Life members handed out donated clothes outside, others put together meals for the visitors; in the first hour, roughly 70 people came to eat.

“We were blessed, so why not help others?” said Richard Osbourne, who became an impromptu waiter for the day. “I’m not doing this for my personal gain, I’m doing it because I know God’s going to bless me.”

That was a common feeling, said Hung Ngo, senior vice-president of Operations and Franchise Development for Saratoga Food Group, which owns the Popeyes chain.

“We had to turn away about 30 people who came to help,” he said. “Over 80 people came to help. We have let the community know that we care.”