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Community reaching out at Thanksgiving
thanksgiving - manna 1
Liberty County Manna House volunteer Jane Chatman fills bags with food for clients. Manna House will soon be stocking shelves for Thanksgiving food baskets. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
On Thanksgiving Day, as friends and families gather to express gratitude for their blessings, things often taken for granted the rest of the year — food, shelter and relationships — are called to mind.
But in Liberty County, several service organizations, churches and businesses focus on these basic necessities month after month, working to meet residents’ needs, no matter what the season. The holidays are especially busy for these groups, though, as they band together to provide holiday meals and gifts for families who might not otherwise be able to afford such comforts.
The Liberty County Department of Family and Children’s Services in Liberty and Long
counties refers families in need to churches and other organizations willing to help.
DFCS screens families who apply for assistance during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, said Petula Gomillion, Liberty County DFCS interim director. Applicants are screened for household size and economic need.
“We have about 210 applicants who will be receiving assistance this year (for Thanksgiving),” she said. There are 20-25 donors who will be sponsoring food baskets or hot meals for needy families referred by DFCS this Thanksgiving, according to Gomillion.
“We’re the hub for the process,” she said. “The vendors (donors) coordinate with the clients to deliver the items. We have a similar program for Christmas. We’ll post applications for the Christmas program at the DFCS office on Nov. 30.”
Gomillion credited DFCS worker Adriane Brown for coordinating the agency’s local Thanksgiving program.
One of the local organizations to which DFCS refers clients is Liberty County Manna House.
The nonprofit food pantry assists people in need all year long and during the Thanksgiving holiday. Manna House volunteers said they generally see 175 clients a day when they are open, which is Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of each week.
For Thanksgiving, the organization has acquired 400 turkeys to fill food baskets for needy families. Baskets will be issued beginning at 9 a.m. Monday through Wednesday. Applicants should bring a photo ID and must meet eligibility criteria, based on USDA low income and the Emergency Food Assistance Program guidelines.
Manna House is at 100 Commerce St. in downtown Hinesville.
Hinesville city officials reach out to the community each year through the Mayor’s Thanksgiving Program, which is at 6 tonight at First United Methodist Church in downtown Hinesville. The program began in 2002.
“Community members and leaders will come together to celebrate the holiday season and offerings collected during the service will benefit the Liberty County Homeless Coalition this year,” said Krystal Britton, Hinesville’s public relations manager.
Clergy and chaplains from across Liberty County and the post have helped Mayor Jim Thomas coordinate the program, Britton said.
“The purpose is to get the community together to celebrate Thanksgiving,” Thomas said. “We get together and give thanks for all that we have, but more importantly to share what we have with others who aren’t as fortunate.”
Another city official, District 4 Council Member Keith Jenkins, and Liberty County Commissioner Gary Gilliard will provide Thanksgiving dinner to those in need from 4-6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Jenkins Karate School, 903 E.G. Miles Parkway, according to Britton. Call 977-3527 to reserve a spot.
In addition to service-minded officials, many local churches are reaching out to people in need at Thanksgiving.
Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church implements its Ministry of Giving Program during the holidays and throughout the year, said Daisy “We give out food vouchers to Kroger,” Jones said. “Anyone who comes in who needs food, we try to help.”
St. Stephens Catholic Church, via the St. Vincent De Paul Society, provides food for less fortunate parishioners and people in the community, said church member Mary Wilce.
For Thanksgiving, the church holds a brown bag food collection.
“We ask our parishioners to mark corn, peas or potatoes on the bags, anything that is traditional for Thanksgiving,” Wilce said.
She said the church will provide at least 75 boxed dinners this year.
Hinesville First United Methodist will deliver Thanksgiving meals to those in need from 10 a.m.-noon Thursday. Ruthie Brannen, church program director, said church members under the supervision of Martha Kitchings have put this program in motion.
 “On Thanksgiving morning, we will take out meals for 125 people,” Brannen said.
Other churches will host communal Thanksgiving meals.
Gum Branch Baptist Church will have a community meal from noon-2 p.m. Thursday, according to Vicki Davis, church member and director of the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority.
“We really want to reach out to anyone who wants to come,” Davis said. “We know a lot of people spend the holidays alone.”
Call 876-3630 to reserve a spot.
Along with area churches, local businesses are helping to make Thanksgiving nice for Fort Stewart soldiers.
Vann’s Bar and Grill in Hinesville is reaching out to service men and women who can’t make it home for the holiday. The restaurant will serve a free Thanksgiving dinner at 11 a.m. and is providing a shuttle service to and from Fort Stewart.
“Sometimes soldiers don’t have enough money or enough time to go home before they deploy to Iraq,” said Kristie Bricker, Vann’s manager.
Fort Stewart’s chaplains are doing what they can to make the holidays brighter for soldiers and families who need assistance.
Senior chaplain Col. Gary Moore said the Holiday Food Voucher Program for 3rd ID soldiers at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield and Kelly Hill (Fort Benning) gives these service members and their families “a bounce” at Thanksgiving.
Moore said $25 vouchers to buy groceries at the post commissaries are distributed. He explained the program is facilitated by the chaplaincy, but the chain of command, tenant units and Family Readiness Groups refer soldiers to the voucher program.
“They submit the names,” Moore said. “They’re the people closest to the soldiers. They know who can use a little help. They can make the referrals discreetly.”
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