A blessing to others

Published 11:07 pm Saturday, November 19, 2011

Volunteers from King's Fork High School put together bags of collards during the annual turkey giveaway held by LeOtis Williams on Sunday. More than 2,000 people received food at the event.

Two food giveaways serve thousands on Saturday

“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in….” Matthew 25:35

For thousands of people in Suffolk on Saturday, those words spoken by Jesus Christ in the Book of Matthew had a special meaning.

Because of two different food distributions — both guided at least in part by faith — many families around Suffolk will be able to celebrate Thanksgiving this year with food on tables that otherwise might have been empty.

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“Being on a fixed income, it helps me very much,” Roselyn Cannady said as she carried a frozen turkey and a bag full of collards and other fresh produce to a waiting car after winding through a line of more than 2,000 people waiting for food at LeOtis Williams’ annual giveaway.

“I think he’s a blessing to help people like this,” she said. “I know he will get his blessing in return.”

Williams and 78 volunteers distributed turkey, collards, cabbage, sweet potatoes and pastries to people who had been waiting in line in front of his Old East Pinner Street shop since as early as 5:45 a.m. Saturday, he said.

“I’m trying to make a difference,” he said of his eighth annual turkey and food giveaway. “With the economy in the state it’s in now and so many people unemployed … I feel like no man, woman or child should go to bed hungry. The Lord has blessed me, and I just want to be a blessing to others.”

A similar desire to bless others drove 30 churches and scores of volunteers to gather in the parking lot of Suffolk’s Lake Meade Park Saturday morning to hand out food to about 1,000 people who filed past pickup trucks and tables laden with canned food, coffee and chicken.

“This has been glorious,” said Dot Dalton, an organizer of the event with Impact Suffolk, a group of Suffolk churches that works together on the Thanksgiving Food Give-Away and other projects throughout the year.

“It’s fantastic. God blessed us with good weather, and He blessed us with the churches” that helped with the distribution, she added.

Suffolk resident Rosa Thomas, whose bags of food were being carried by church volunteers as she made the circuit at the Impact Suffolk event in a powered wheelchair, said it was good to get out and see folks she hadn’t seen in a while and that the food would help her to stock her cupboards.

“It’s something I won’t have to try to buy,” she said. “It’s all a blessing.”

Both events benefited from groups of willing volunteers who unpacked food, put it into bags for the people who were receiving it and even carried the bags to their cars.

One group of students from King’s Fork High School even helped out at both events, filling bags with collards at the Williams giveaway and carrying bags full of canned food and chicken at the Impact Suffolk event.

“So many people want to be a part of this,” Williams said, noting that volunteer participation in his event has grown significantly since he started it.

But his distribution has grown, as well, having started with just 175 turkeys his first year.

On Saturday, he helped 2,050 people, an effort toward which he contributed about $31,000, Williams said. He’ll begin setting aside money for next year’s giveaway next month, he added.

“Just looking at some of these faces, it’s priceless,” he said. “I get a lot of thank-you’s and a lot of hugs — a lot of hugs.”