‘It’s a blessing’: Thousands receive food for Thanksgiving

Published 10:20 pm Monday, November 25, 2019

Elsie Carter will celebrate her 58th birthday on Thanksgiving Day, and she got an early start Saturday at Lake Meade Park, arriving in the 4 a.m. chill and waiting five hours to receive a free turkey and other fixings from a coalition of churches.

She was one of hundreds who lined up to receive holiday necessities as part of Suffolk United’s giveaway.

“It’s a blessing, ‘cause the way times are now, things are tight,” Carter said as she finished going through the line to get her food. “Especially being 58, I’ve got to feed my grandkids.”

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It was a similar scene on Old East Pinner Street at LW’s Lawn Service and MWM Investments and Property Management’s 16th annual Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway, with people in line starting in the pre-dawn hours Saturday coming to redeem more than 2,000 vouchers as more than 300 volunteers helped out.

Event coordinator Mavis Milteer Penn said owner LeOtis Williams, who for years has bankrolled the outreach himself, usually buys an additional 500 turkeys for those who did not have vouchers, which had been given by various organizations to those in need.

“It’s everyone working together so that we can give back to the community,” Milteer Penn said.

In addition to the food giveaway at LW’s, there were vendors providing information on insurance, Medicaid and flu shots, and the Suffolk Humane Society was out giving away pet food and other supplies.

Cheryl Moats of Bethlehem Christian Church came out to get food for members of her church and said they would be happy to receive the blessing.

“It means a lot, because we know a lot of people don’t have (much), so if we can help, it makes our hearts feel good,” Moats said.

For the churches who took part at the park, members said it was something they could unite for — an effort to help members of the Suffolk community in need.

Sister Debbie Hawk, a missionary at Palm Tree Baptist Church, said its members enjoy helping out the community.
“It’s a relief and it’s a blessing, so that they don’t have so much on them at Thanksgiving and at Christmas,” Hawk said. “This is enough to provide for them and help with their family. And that’s what it’s all about, the love, ‘cause God would want us to do all of this for our people.”

Adria Mason-Exantus of New St. Matthew Holiness Church said with many people in need, the event gives them not only a chance to get much-needed food, but also allows them to connect with churches that may have other needed resources.

“It’s a time of family, so to see ones who can’t afford the small things, it’s a great joy just to help them out,” Mason-Exantus said. “With the bills, and Christmas coming up and the holidays, it’s a very stressful time for people, so to get one thing off the plate, it’s just a joy to have them. They don’t have to worry about food.”

Lilian Rowe and Celina Wilson were out together at both turkey giveaways, waiting in line for more than an hour at Lake Meade Park, and redeeming their vouchers at LW’s.

“We probably wouldn’t have a turkey if it wasn’t for this,” Rowe said. “We really wouldn’t. It is a blessing, indeed, because me and my son, we have very limited income. I depend on this.”