BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Thousands of Greene Countians enjoyed the warmth of a Thanksgiving meal at no cost this week, thanks to the efforts of hundreds of volunteers with two local outreach ministries.
Cedar Hill Cumberland Presbyterian Church, located at 4170 Newport Hwy., hosted its 18th Annual Community Thanksgiving Outreach Meal on Thursday, a spokesman said Friday, serving or delivering at least 2,560 meals to more than 700 families -- a new record for the outreach.
In addition, 1,326 meals were served, picked up or delivered just prior to Thanksgiving Day through the annual "Thanksgiving with Friends" dinner sponsored by Northern Greene County Churches -- United in Love Ministry.
In both cases, recipients only had to ask in order to be included, and the volunteers providing the dinners were happy to provide a "home-cooked" Thanksgiving Dinner with all the trimmings.
UNITED IN LOVE OUTREACH
The United in Love Ministry's outreach involved a total of 17 local churches, mostly in northern Greene County. The distribution was based at Union Temple Free Will Baptist Church, 9680 Kingsport Hwy.
While the vast majority of the meals distributed by the United in Love Ministry were delivered by volunteers, a few people chose to enjoy the dinner between noon and 4 p.m. Wednesday at the church, or came to the church and picked up the meal as a carry-out.
"It was just a wonderful time, again, of fellowship!" organizer Pam McAmis said. "We appreciate everyone's help."
CEDAR HILL OUTREACH
For the Cedar Hill-based Thanksgiving outreach, which also combines the efforts of numerous Greeneville and Greene County churches of various denominations, a spokesman said that the thousands of meals equaled about 680 pounds of turkey, 150 cakes, 90 gallons of corn, green beans and mashed potatoes, 72 pans of stuffing and, unexpectedly, 200 dinners featuring ham rather than turkey.
"It wasn't one of our smoother years," organizer Doug Cogburn noted Friday in an e-mail report to supporters of the annual effort.
"We might have been an hour late on the last of the deliveries. We ran out of a few things -- like turkey!"
A quick trip to the grocery store restored the kitchen volunteers' bounty of corn and green beans, and replaced the turkey shortage with ham slices in about the last 200 deliveries to go out, Cogburn said.
"I wound up doing a few deliveries," he said. "Everybody that I delivered to, even though it was like 2 p.m. before I was getting there, they were just so thankful."
Most who receive the meals are elderly or ill, he added. "They were just tickled to death to get [the dinners]."
He estimated that 15 to 18 Greeneville and Greene County churches participated.
In addition to the many volunteers based at Cedar Hill Cumberland Presbyterian itself, more than 100 volunteers worked at Trinity United Methodist Church on Tusculum Boulevard in Greeneville, and another 100 or more handled the delivery routes.
"We could actually use a few more delivery people," Cogburn said, explaining that the volunteer drivers were often families driving together: a situation which left only 50-55 vehicles making deliveries along 62 routes.
He noted that anyone interested in joining next year's efforts can contact him at 639-1617, or join the follow-up meeting to be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at Cedar Hill Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
"Many thanks to the probably 250-275 people who were there [Thursday] and everyone who met or kept in e-mail touch during the planning meetings, and to everyone who cooked and sent their food or dropped it off and didn't get counted in any tally, and to all those who made donations to make the event possible and who kept us in their prayers," Cogburn wrote in the email report.
"And of course thanks to all those who received meals or called in for others, for letting us join in their homes, and Thanksgiving for the day, and, above all, to the Lord, Who continues to bless our efforts and to multiply them and Who keeps us peaceful and calm when things don't go as planned."