BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Hundreds of volunteers took time out of busy holiday schedules this week to emphasize the "giving" in Thanksgiving.
Thousands of meals went out at no cost to those in need, thanks to volunteers with two local outreach ministries.
Cedar Hill Cumberland Presbyterian Church, located at 4170 Newport Hwy., celebrated its 20th Annual Community Thanksgiving Outreach Meal on Thanksgiving.
Organizer Doug Cogburn estimated that 2,855 meals went out to people throughout Greene County.
On Wednesday, about 1,500 meals made their way to homes and families in the upper end of the county through the annual "Thanksgiving with Friends" dinner, sponsored by Northern Greene County Churches -- United in Love Ministry.
These dinners, featuring turkey, dressing and all the trimmings, including dessert, were made possible through the combined efforts of more than 30 churches in Greeneville and Greene County.
THANKSGIVING WITH FRIENDS
United in Love Chairman Paula Tims said this year the United in Love ministry served about 200 to 300 more meals than in 2012.
There are 11 churches involved in the United in Love Ministry year-round, and five others that join for the Thanksgiving outreach, she said.
On Wednesday, some 60-plus volunteers of all ages filled the activities building at Union Temple Free Will Baptist Church, on the Kingsport Highway, to cook mounds of food and assemble meals.
"They all just chip in, fall into place," Tims said. "They all work so well together. It's a blessing."
Those desiring a meal were invited to pick the dinners up or come eat a meal at the church. Many more were delivered along dozens of routes stretching across the northern portion of the county.
Meals went out to the Greeneville Police Department, Greene County Sheriff's Department and to a number of emergency medical services and volunteer fire department workers. Routes also blanketed areas where there is low-income housing, Tims said.
Planning for the event is a weekly effort beginning in October and takes hundreds of hours, she noted.
"We're just thankful, thankful, thankful!" said Joshua Franklin, Tims' grandson.
Tims said that the outreach began in 2004 and was so successful that the United In Love ministry grew out of it in 2005.
Now, the ministry is regularly serving the community, providing clothing and grocery needs for clients from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., every Saturday at its location on the corner of Smithmill and West Pines.
The Cedar Hill outreach began in 1994, when the church served 284 meals on Thanksgiving, according to the Rev. Casey Nicholson, pastor of the church.
"The success of that first event encouraged Cedar Hill to make feeding the hungry an annual Thanksgiving Day event," Nicholson said in a news release.
"Over the years the scope of the project grew, and to meet the needs of the community, the church opened its doors to other Greene County churches to help make the meal a success," Nicholson said.
Cogburn said more than 20 churches joined this year's effort, with at least 100 people filling the assembly line to cook and assemble meals and another 100 running the delivery routes.
The volunteers worked out of Cedar Hill to assemble the meals, beginning their day around 8 a.m. Some were still there wrapping things up after Cogburn left at 2 p.m., he said.
Others worked out of Trinity United Methodist Church's kitchen to prepare the 100 turkeys used for the meals.
"Everybody seemed just tickled to death to be there," Cogburn said.
According to his estimates, the ministry sent out 2,653 meals for delivery, assembled 137 carryouts, and fed 65 individuals on site.
That many meals totaled about 1,000 pounds of turkey, 25 pounds of ham, 111 gallons of mashed potatoes, 107 gallons of corn, 114 gallons of green beans, 194 cakes and 231 dozen canned drinks.
Of that amount of food, there were a pan of corn, a pan of green beans and a couple of boxes of drinks left at the end of the day, he said. Everything else was gone.
"We're going to need some more help next year because we're about to outgrow ourselves," Cogburn said.
He encouraged those interested in volunteering to visit thanksgivingoutreach.org.