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Groups prepare to serve Thanksgiving meals for free

POSTED: December 2, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Amy Autry, left, and Glenda Magness unload food at the Lula Assembly of Praise Church gymnasium Monday afternoon as they begin preparations for Thursday's Thanksgiving dinner. The church plans to feed between 300 and 500 people.

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The holiday season is all about giving and receiving, and several local churches and organizations are looking to give a free Thanksgiving meal to those people who are in need.

"We are hoping to reach 300 to 500 people on Thanksgiving Day," said Amy Autry, who is the secretary for the Lula Assembly of Praise Church. "It’s open to anyone in the community. We also want to invite our police, firefighters and other public service people to come out and enjoy a good meal."

Although the church serves weekly meals, this is the first time that the group has attempted such a large meal.

"We have a ministry that serves a meal each Wednesday to shut-ins, but this is the first time that we’ve ever done a Thanksgiving dinner," Autry said. "We see a lot of need in this community, so we wanted to open this up to everyone."

The church at 6158 Carter St. in Lula will be offering the free Thanksgiving feast from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Thursday.

Feeding hundreds of hungry people isn’t just something that happens overnight, it takes lots of preparation and planning.

"We’ve been working on this for several months. A good bit of the food has been donated, but the church purchased the additional things that we were missing," said Bishop Kevin Magness, one of the event’s organizers.

"We know that there are a lot of people out there who don’t have the money for a big turkey dinner with all of the trimmings, so when they come here, we want to offer them something good to eat. It’ll be like going to grandma’s. It’s a large undertaking, but we’re really excited."

While the Lula group says they’ve been able to staff their Thanksgiving Day event internally, the organizers at Good News at Noon are looking for more volunteers to work their annual meal.

For those who are interested in helping Thursday, Good News at Noon staff ask volunteers to report to the facility at 979 Davis St. at 10 a.m.

The meal will be served from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.

In addition to those organizations offering meals on Thanksgiving Day, First Baptist Church at 751 Green St. is inviting Gainesville City firefighters and their families to join the church’s members for a free meal at the church at 5:30 p.m. today.

This is the first year that the church has invited emergency workers to join in its annual pre-Thanksgiving feast. The church expects to make the invitation a yearly happening, with a different group of emergency workers being invited each time.


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