Steve Hill, Brian Jammer and Jen Jammer will be among more than 100 volunteers up early Thursday in preparation for what has become an annual Thanksgiving Day benevolence in this community.
“This has become one of the most treasured traditions our family has, serving together with our church family on Thanksgiving,” the Rev. Chip Stapleton recently was reminding congregation members at Highland Presbyterian Church. “And I want to encourage all of you to get involved in whatever way you can.”
No need for the good preacher to ask twice.
This has become a time-honored tradition for the past 30 years at the church overlooking Haymount Hill and what began with church members who wanted to assure a Thanksgiving meal for many who might not be as fortunate as others.
“The first year, a few families recognized a need and on their own banded together, cooked at home and at the church and came up to serve about 100 or so meals,” says Stapleton, the church’s senior pastor. “And it has grown exponentially since then.”
‘A great mission’
Alan Pittman recalls those early days.
“The plan was to have a lot of people come in and eat,” says Pittman, who grew up in the church. “We didn’t have that many people. We said, ‘What are we going to do with all this food? Let’s see if we can deliver these plates.’ So, we shifted to delivering meals. It’s been a great tradition, and now we have other churches involved. It’s well organized and it’s very rewarding. It makes you feel good. It’s a good mission.”
Come Thursday, according to Stapleton, the church will serve 2,300 Thanksgiving Day meals that include turkey and gravy, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, green beans, rolls and pie.
“People can eat here, although most meals are delivered or picked up drive-thru style,” Stapleton says. “We partner with literally dozens of organizations for meal deliveries. We will do well over 100-plus individual deliveries.”
Among those partnering with Highland Presbyterian Church, Jen Jammer says, are Meals on Wheels, the Community Service Center, Gray’s Creek Elementary School, College Heights Presbyterian Church, Victory Ministry, Healing Touch Ministries, Cumberland Interfaith, House of God, the Stanton Hospitality House, the Oxford House, New Life Deliverance Ministry, New Life Mission, Haymont Manor, Operation Engage, Healing Hands, Operation Inasmuch and Gateway of Hope.
Volunteers will arrive early Thursday.
No surprise there.
It’s Thanksgiving, and there are people to feed — people who might otherwise have no Thanksgiving Day meal. It could be a mother struggling to provide for her children. It could be a shut-in with health issues. It could be someone without family and a lonely heart.
“We will start the line around 8 on Thursday morning with prayer,” Stapleton says, “and then deliveries start shortly after. We go until all deliveries are made, usually around 11:30.”
It will be a busy morning at the “church on the hill,” and where Steve Hill again will lead the volunteers.
“Steve Hill has run and organized the effort the last several years,” Stapleton says, “as well as our weekly Thursday food pantry, which serves over 100 families weekly. Jen Jammer is the staff contact point, along with her husband, Brian Jammer. There are countless other names who are vital to the effort.”
I’ve been to this Thanksgiving Day tradition along Highland Avenue. I’ve talked to those after they have enjoyed the turkey and all the fixings. I’ve listened as they talked of their gratefulness of knowing someone cared. Mama used to send me there before Thanksgiving with pumpkin or pecan or apple pies.
Jen Jammer is the energetic director of Children’s Ministry at the church, and she concurs with everything Chip Stapleton says about the Thanksgiving Day tradition.
With one exception.
Volunteers will not be serving and delivering 2,300 Thanksgiving meals.
“We will be serving,” Jen Jammer says, “almost 2,500 meals.”
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-624-1961.