Local ministry provides Thanksgiving to more than 200 families

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Christian Men United in Prayer began with three men in 2005. Since then, the group has grown to over fifty members.The group consists mostly of retired men from all walks of life, vocations and professions. Over the years, several younger men have visited and joined the group. It is a multi-denominational group of both laymen and clergy. In 2009, the group came up with the idea of providing Thanksgiving meal boxes to less fortunate families in the area. That idea has grown to a community outreach to more than 200 families at Thanksgiving. Here is their story:

By Vickie Creamer

Christian Men United in Prayer began with three men in 2005. Jim Davis had recently moved here from Charleston, and attended Calvary Baptist Church in Williamston. He met with a prayer group in Piedmont for awhile, but they met at a quarter to seven each week. “I didn’t retire so I would have to get up that early!” Davis said.

He came back to his church and asked why there was no prayer group in Williamston. He was told that it had been tried in the past, but interest waned, and the group fell apart. Davis wanted to try again. Ken McInnis and Larry Burgess felt a desire to try again also, and along with Davis, they began meeting at JT’s Restaurant in Williamston for prayer. A few weeks later, Lloyd Crowe joined and shortly thereafter now deceased Paul Myers joined.

The group has grown to over fifty members with between thirty and fifty attending each meeting.

Over the years, the meeting place has changed due to a number of circumstances. When JT’s closed, the group met for several weeks in area church social halls and in the homes of members. An invitation was given to try Boots and Thelma’s Restaurant in West Pelzer. The size of the group had grown and overwhelmed the staff there.

An invite was then extended by Bill Duffield at the B&R Restaurant on US Hwy 29 in front of the Jockey Lot. This has been the home of the prayer group every Tuesday morning since.

The group consists mostly of retired men from all walks of life, vocations and professions. Over the years, several younger men have visited and joined the group. It is a multi-denominational group of both laymen and clergy. In 2009, the group decided to put “feet” to their prayers. They came up with the idea of providing Thanksgiving meal boxes to less fortunate families in the area.

In one of the meetings, Earle Ford volunteered his wife, Linda Ford to help organize the Thanksgiving project. He informed the group that she was good at organization and computers, and he went home and told her she had the job.

Members testify that Linda is their “Angel” because they could not do what they do without her assistance.

Mrs. Ford goes above and beyond the call of duty as a volunteer. She puts out the list of needed food items to area churches, sends the applications to the schools, churches, and Operation Care.

She organizes the volunteers who deliver the meals and maps out the routes to be delivered. She keeps up with who is contributing what and sends out thank-you notes.

Linda commented, “It’s sort of like having 50 husbands. I just try to keep them all straight.”

The men in the prayer group cook the turkey breasts all night on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Jimmy Cason has a large cooker and the men gather at his place to cook and fellowship. Some men bring deep fryers and fry turkeys also. They wrap the turkeys and pack them into boxes.

Each box contains green beans, yams, corn, mac and cheese mix, stuffing mix, cranberry sauce, gravy or gravy mix, rolls and dessert. These dry goods are furnished by local churches.

Usually twenty to twenty-three churches get involved. Also, some local businesses, churches, and “special individuals” give monetary donations.

Volunteers consisting of men, women, and children come out early on Wednesday morning to help pack and deliver the boxes.

The first few years, the cooking was done in Williamston’s Mineral Spring Park and meals delivered from there.

This will be the second year that they will deliver from First Baptist Church in Williamston because there is a covered archway and it is more convenient for volunteers to drive up, take a box along with an address and contact number.

The first year, the total number of families helped was 175. In 2010, that number grew to 195. The next year, meals were distributed to 215 families. The numbers then grew to 219, 227, and last year, 210 families received a Thanksgiving meal.

Some of the families have as many as 12 because they have had to “combine” households. Many of these families have children who have never had a real Thanksgiving meal.

Some of the recipients are elderly with no family. They are as grateful to see a face as they are to receive the food.

On one occasion, a homebound person would not come to the door. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the person was deceased.

Another time a meal was delivered to a home with only a piece of plastic for a front door.

There was also an incident where a lady had fallen in her garage and could not get up.

A young person remarked to a teacher at school that she had never had a real Thanksgiving meal. When she came back to school after the break, she bragged about how good her meal was.

One elderly person was so glad to see a mother and her daughters at the door that she wanted to pay for her meal.

Some of the volunteers have taken boxes home and prepared the meals for families. Other volunteers have come together to help take care of urgent needs such as the front door, handicap ramps, plumbing or electrical problems.

Jim Davis commented, “It is such a blessing to help others…those less fortunate in our community. Any donations left over are given to Operation Care so they can meet needs throughout the year.”

Larry Burgess commented, “Many lives have been touched thru this ministry. It has exceeded all my expectations, is very close to my heart, and is very rewarding.”

Ken McInnis commented, “I delivered a meal to a family with two children one year. I could tell they didn’t have much. I was greeted like family when they came to the door. The two children were very loving. They cried when I left. They did not have the means to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. Most of us have never gone without a meal,” McInnis said. “We take so much for granted. It’s just very fulfilling to be able to give out of the abundance God has blessed us with.”

The Christian Men United Thanksgiving is the largest community outreach project in the area. No one sells anything and no one makes any money. It is just a group of people who come together to take Jesus to the streets of the Williamston, Pelzer, Belton, and Piedmont areas.

If you want to receive a blessing even larger than the one you will be giving to others, please come out and volunteer.