While some families gathered to eat turkey and give thanks, others volunteered time or cooking skills Thursday to make sure other Hall County residents enjoyed a Thanksgiving Day meal.
Plates of food, served with a smile, were eaten by about 1,000 people at the Good News at Noon shelter and the Gainesville Masonic Lodge. Meals were also packed and delivered to homebound seniors in the Meals on Wheels program and donated to other local charities.
Steve Smith and several family members started their day volunteering at Good News, sorting canned goods in the warehouse. The Smith family has volunteered at the shelter through its church for more than a year.
“We serve in the kitchen a lot on Saturdays,” Steve Smith said. “We come over and help feed folks all the time.”
Marie, a homeless woman The Times agreed not to identify, ate her Thanksgiving meal at Good News and said she goes to the shelter every day. Marie lives under the Queen City Parkway bridge and gets lunch and dinner at Good News. The shelter serves about 55,000 meals a year, said Fletcher Law, pastor.
“I don’t like staying up under a bridge, running the risk of alcohol, substance abuse,” Marie said. “I’m not here for the food, but I am here for the food. I’m here for the friendship, the common thread, the fact that it’s a homeless shelter.”
Thomas and Mike Lord were at Good News to share the Thanksgiving meal together. Thomas Lord, 84, lives in an apartment in Gainesville, but comes to the shelter for the company, his son Mike Lord said. Mike Lord came up from outside Atlanta to spend the holiday with his dad.
“It’s better than cooking,” Thomas Lord said. “I ain’t much of a cook.”
Hundreds of people also gathered at the Masonic lodge on Lakeshore Drive to celebrate Thanksgiving with a community dinner hosted by Project J.O.Y., the brainchild of Rose and Eugene Moon. Rose Moon said the dinner is not just for the needy, it’s for anyone in the community, and some people who ate also brought a side dish. Project J.O.Y. (Jesus. Others. Yourself.) expected to feed more than 500 people, including 200 seniors and the homeless.
Any leftovers were designated to go to the Salvation Army and to people under the Queen City Parkway bridge.
“This is really like a fellowship,” Rose Moon said. “Everything that we have here has been donated.”
About four years ago, the Moons’ pastor challenged them to reach out to the community, so they started hosting people at their house during Thanksgiving. It has grown quickly and continues to get bigger each year. The couple’s youngest daughter, Jade Aroyo, 14, has helped every year since she was 10.
“We make the meals and then we get the list from Meals on Wheels and take the (dinners) to them,” Aroyo said. “Meals on Wheels doesn’t deliver on Thanksgiving.”
She said the experience has opened her eyes and made her more grateful for what she has.
“There’s usually a few families that come here every year, and it’s great to see them each year and they recognize you,” she said. “You have that connection.”