Wednesday, November 14, 2012
To help make sure every family has something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, 200 volunteers from Pneuma Christian Center’s Hope Harvest Ministry are giving away 1,000 turkeys to Chattanooga area families in need Nov. 17.
“We’ve seen a greater need every year,” said Pneuma Christian Center Executive Director Kilzma Brown. “It’s legitimate needs; we talk to every recipient. A lot of the need is due to job loss and it’s people having financial challenges right now.”
Every year since the giveaway began in 2009, needy area families have waited in line at local community centers, sometimes starting as early as 7 a.m., to make sure they receive one of the turkeys to take home for their Thanksgiving Day meal, Michele Stepney, Hope Harvest manager, said. As those in need of a hand up walk into the donation sites, they can select clothing from racks and pick up a turkey large enough to feed a family of seven. The Pneuma Choir is typically on-hand playing soothing music to keep up the spirits of the downtrodden.
“We turn it into a community fair atmosphere,” said Brown. “We want people to be happy.”
To kick off this year’s giveaway, volunteers will hand out 200 turkeys at Washington Hills Community Center that morning. Then the group will travel to South Chattanooga Community Center at noon to hand out 400 turkeys. Lastly, 400 turkeys will be given away at Eastdale Community Center in the late afternoon.
Stepney said the group chooses to give out turkeys instead of hosting a meal in order to let the recipient families eat together at home.
“When families eat in the home it brings everybody together,” she said. “They break bread with one another. We believe in strong families. It’s our way to strengthen the family unit. It makes for a better community.”
In order to receive a turkey people should bring a form of identification such as a valid driver’s license.
“We started with 279 turkeys the first year and each year we added onto that,” said Stepney. “We started because the economy was going downhill a bit. We realized there is a need among working people that can’t afford a Thanksgiving meal. We also want to help people that lost their job.”
She said Pneuma Christian Center polled the turkey giveaway participants in 2011 to see if they mainly needed a turkey or if they were more concerned about having sides to go with the turkey. The poll was unanimous that people mainly needed a turkey, she said, so this year the turkey baskets to be given away include a turkey that feeds a family of seven instead of sides to go with a smaller turkey.
“If people know a church cares, it changes the community,” said Stepney. “People like to say thank you on a videotape at the end of the event. One lady on the video is a single mom saying that the food and clothing helped her family. Another lady that was laid off after nine years of being employed with her company said Hope Harvest helped her make ends meet. One man got out of incarceration and went through the line to get a turkey because he said he did not want to go home empty-handed. Pneuma Media Center edits the clips together.”