Volunteer effort helps get Thanksgiving meals to area residents
'I think you should give back, whenever you’ve been blessed'
Rhonda Whelchel gets a hug from Jerry Lee Elrod Thursday morning while holding a Thanksgiving meal at M and M Down Home Catering. Elrod walked in off the street asking for a meal and was given a plate of food prepared by a group of volunteers for area needy. - photo by Scott Rogers

Four years ago, Martha Randolph planned to deliver Thanksgiving meals just to the homeless under the Queen City Parkway Bridge in Gainesville.

“But then, when I got to looking into it, there’s (a lot of) elderly people in need for food,” said the owner of M & M Down Home Catering at 996 Athens St., Gainesville. “They’ve got Meals on Wheels, but this is the day they don’t deliver.”

With the help of volunteers and food donors, Randolph ended up providing some 500 meals last year to area homeless, elderly and shut-in residents.

The annual event took place again Thursday, with Randolph hoping to deliver another several hundred plates.

“To me, I think you should give back, whenever you’ve been blessed, when God has blessed you,” Randolph said. “Do something.”

Volunteers started firing up grills outside the catering business at 4:30 a.m. Thursday. Other workers arrived later in the chilly morning to put together plates consisting of chicken, rice, gravy, green beans or pinto bean and a slice of pumpkin pie.

Mar-Jac Poultry, Georgia Mountain Food Bank and Cargill helped provide the food, Randolph said.

Area residents and different groups, including Divas Motivating Divas, volunteered in the community effort.

There was a steady buzz of activity around Randolph’s business.

People carried trays of barbecued chicken to an assembly line where plates were made, boxes of plates were hauled to cars and deliveries were taken to various destinations around town.

Workers also gave plates of food to people walking off the street and seeking food. No questions were asked, just an exchange of hugs and handshakes.

“People are so appreciative,” Randolph said of the experience, tearing up. “... A lot of people don’t realize the need (in the community), but there’s a need.”

She said one man approached her for food, saying he had a job but still had trouble making ends meet.

“I said, ‘You don’t need to explain anything to me. How many plates do you need?’”

Felicia Doyle, one of the workers putting together plates, said the reason for her volunteer effort was simple: “I’m blessed, so I want to bless others. There are people who are hurting and need to know that somebody loves them.

“I think this is an awesome ministry … where we can share God’s love.”

People receiving the food were grateful.

“It’s a blessing for people who can’t cook or having nothing to eat,” said Calvin Mangum, resident of Myrtle Terraces at 1326 Myrtle St. “I had a little food, but this saved me from having to cook it. This helps stretch what you’ve got in the house.”

Cathy Rell, another Myrtle Terraces resident, said, “It’s a real blessing to have somebody do this for us. I didn’t have anything to cook and I (am unable to) cook.”

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