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Project JOY hopes to feed 1,000 at Thanksgiving dinner

Leftovers sent to Under The Bridge Ministry to feed people in need

POSTED: November 23, 2011 8:00 p.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Kayla Brady works on making brownies Wednesday for the Project JOY Thanksgiving dinner to be served at the Salvation Army.

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All over the country today, families gather around the dinner table to celebrate their blessings.

The Moon family, like many others, has spent the last few days preparing stuffing, sides, desserts and turkey — a lot of turkey.

For the second year, Rose Moon, her family and many volunteers will be serving Thanksgiving dinner to anyone who wants it.

Last year it was 350. This year they're prepared for 1,000.

Moon said the invitation is open to anyone.

"For anybody who doesn't have anyone to spend the holiday's with. That's who this is for," said Jason Ladd, one of the Thanksgiving volunteers and founder of Under the Bridge Ministries.

The Thanksgiving tradition, called Project JOY (Jesus Others Yourself), was Moon's response to a challenge the pastor of her church made to the congregation.

He asked that they "do something radical" for Christ.

She said Thanksgiving immediately came to mind.

She, her husband Eugene Moon and their three daughters shared the idea with friends and soon nearly 60 people volunteered to help with the holiday feast.

They weren't sure how many to expect for dinner, though.

"I was kind of nervous we weren't going to have enough food," said Savannah Aroyo, Moon's 15-year-old daughter.

But the food didn't run out and the few leftovers were sent to Under The Bridge Ministries to help feed more people in need.

"It was interesting to see how much people gave," Aroyo said.

With the help of three local businesses, Project JOY has enough food to feed 1,000 people at this year's dinner. One hundred volunteers have signed up to help prepare and serve the meal, including several local officials.

"I think we all have to serve others, not only food but spiritual needs as well," Moon said. "I believe it is my job as a Christian to serve."

Tammy Dutkewych has volunteered this year to help the Moons. She and her family have passed out flyers, collected donations and used Facebook to spread the word about the Thanksgiving feast. She admitted the amount of food and preparation is a little overwhelming, but thankfully they have a lot of help.

"I was wondering how in the world they are going to cook that many turkeys," Dutkewych said laughing.

The dinner has grown so much they had to move to the Salvation Army's banquet hall because it is a larger venue and more people who don't have transportation can walk to the meal.

For the people who would like to come to the dinner but don't live close enough to walk, Under the Bridge Ministries will use three vans to bring an estimated 500 people.

In addition to the dinner at the Salvation Army, volunteers will deliver hot meals to more than 100 people on the Meals on Wheels route since Meals on Wheels doesn't deliver on Thanksgiving Day.

The dinner draws a very diverse group of people together to celebrate and share with one another.

"When you looked at the crowd it was elderly people, single moms, single dads, the homeless and people who were well off," Ladd said.

Aroyo said being involved in Project JOY has shown her how much she has to be thankful for.

"We're so blessed and we don't even know it," she said.

She remembers offering a homeless woman a blanket.

The woman turned it down but when Aroyo persisted the woman told her to save the blanket for someone who really needed it.

"She's the one who's suffering and she's still thinking of others," Aroyo said.

Rose Moon said the experience made an impact on her teenage daughter.

"It put life into perspective for her at 15. Here's this woman who has nothing and yet she doesn't want to take anything from anyone," Rose Moon said.

Seeing so many different people from so many walks of life taught Aroyo and her sisters an important lesson.

"Everybody has a different story and I shouldn't judge people. We're all the same," she said.

 



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