Giving and thankfulness

Published 8:55 pm Saturday, November 22, 2014

Turkey: During LW’S Lawn Service and MWM Investments and Property Management’s 11th Annual Day of Giving, Michelle Lee-Edmonds is handed a turkey by volunteer Sebastian Yates. The plan was to give away 2,00 turkeys Saturday.

Turkey: During LW’S Lawn Service and MWM Investments and Property Management’s 11th Annual Day of Giving, Michelle Lee-Edmonds is handed a turkey by volunteer Sebastian Yates. The plan was to give away 2,00 turkeys Saturday.

By Matthew A. Ward
and R.E. Spears II

Suffolk focused on the “giving” part of the Thanksgiving holiday on Saturday, with three different major events aimed at making sure area residents have their needs met for the holiday.

In the parking lot at Lake Meade Park, located behind the Farm Fresh shopping center on North Main Street, more than 900 families received turkeys and all the fixin’s while filing past booths set up by 41 different churches, businesses and other organizations who participated in Impact Suffolk’s 16th annual food giveaway.

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The event continues to build on previous successes, said Okpun Langley, a longtime participant and member of Impact Suffolk who helped organize the giveaway this year.

“We were very pleased,” she said. “It’s growing.

Impact Suffolk formed in 1995 to provide partnerships among ministries operating throughout the city. The continued success of the food giveaway — especially the involvement of businesses like Walmart, QVC, Massimo-Zanetti and others indicates this particular event has become much larger than the church-sponsored distribution that it was when it started, Langley said.

“It has become more of a community project, and not just an Impact Suffolk project,” she said. “We appreciate being a part of something so big.”

Zevetha Burr — an assistant manager at the Chesapeake Square Walmart, which had about a dozen employees who volunteered to help distribute boxes and cans of food donated by the store for the event — confirmed Langley’s account of how the giveaway has grown.

“One of our associates brought it to our attention about four years ago,” after having been involved through her church, Burr said. “We’ve done it four years. It’s a good way to help in the community.”

Around the same time Saturday, the area around Old East Pinner Street was a sea of appreciative folks receiving free turkeys and bags of collard greens and cabbage.

LeOtis Williams of LW’s Lawn Service and MWM Investment and Property Management, which has been running its Annual Day of Caring for 11 years, said people were lining up as early as 4 a.m.

A total of 2,000 turkeys and 200 bushels each of collard greens and cabbage would be handed out before the many volunteers called it a day.

And that’s not counting the 1,300 hotdogs and 400 hamburgers cooked onsite Saturday, as well as cases and cases of water and juice.

Williams said he has handed out 16,000 turkeys to date, benefiting 64,000 individuals.

He said he handed out 135 turkeys at the first event. “Every year it’s just increased,” he added.

Initially, Williams said, folks came exclusively from Suffolk. But now they also come from all around, he said, including Suffolk, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Newport News, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and North Carolina.

The number of organizations involved has also just kept increasing, according to Williams.

He created a voucher system where groups that ask to be included are allocated a certain number of turkeys and themselves select voucher recipients.

This year, 38 organizations participated.

Williams said a lot of people have been laid off or had their hours cut back. A lot of senior citizens and folks on fixed incomes also need a little help, he added.

“I just wanted to do something to make a difference,” Williams said, adding he’s especially passionate about supporting seniors and youth.

Among those outside the LW’S Lawn Service building Saturday, “blessing” was the word most bandied about.

“Why, I just think it’s a blessing,” Sheila Matthew said, after volunteer Sebastian Yates handed her a turkey from the back of the truck.

Walter Kent said it would save some money that would now pay the bills. ‘It’s a blessing,” he added.

Gerald Tew, who received his voucher through the Salvation Army, said the turkey giveaway is a great benefit to Suffolk.

“A lot of people need help, and it’s a wonderful thing,” he said.

Meanwhile, a nonprofit started by a Windsor couple brought fun, food and gifts to community members with an open-door event at the Salvation Army building in Bank Street.

Alan Reynolds and Kathleen Mitchell-Reynolds started Willing 2 Share as a way of giving back. It was the organization’s seventh Thanksgiving event, and the second in downtown Suffolk.

First Baptist Church provided 250 lunches, while other churches, including East End Baptist, St Paul’s Episcopal and Windsor’s New Branch Community Church, helped in other ways.

The highlight of the event was scheduled for mid-afternoon: After earning plastic currency in games, guests were able to shop in a room full of donated gifts.

Mitchell-Reynolds put the value of the gifts donated through the year — books, CDs, toys, clothes and more — at $10,000 or more.

“Last year we hard stories of kids that would not have had had Christmas. We had a story of someone who had been contemplating suicide. Another story of people that were going to be put out on the street,” she said.

The couple met online before Alan Reynolds moved to the U.S. from the U.K. in 2003 for work. They wed 1-1/2 years later, and had both become committed Christians by 2009.

Rochellia Kindred was at the event with granddaughter Mia McNair, 9, and neighbor Ronda Boykin.

“We came to eat, and we were surprised with how good the food was,” Kindred said. “We brought my granddaughter so she could have a toy. We’re having a great time.”