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Community Thanksgiving meal returns

MORGANTOWN — After a forced hiatus in 2020 because of COVID-19, Wesley United Methodist Church Community Thanksgiving returned Thursday to prepare and hand out meals for first responders, nursing staff employees, the homebound, and anyone who wanted to grab one to go.

Karen King, who helped start the program in 2008, said she believes the return of the community meal gives people a sense of hope, and she’s hopeful that next year everyone will be able to dine together once more.

“One of the things I love about Morgantown is that there are a lot of giving people here, they support, this place supports a lot of nonprofits. And I’m really proud to be associated with this place,” King said.

Some volunteers, like Andrew Tucker, Belinda Nicholas and Herb Faulkenberry, started showing up and volunteering their time as early as Sunday to cook the massive spread, which includes 40 turkeys, 34 of which were donated. Tucker made gravy — more than five gallons — the way his mother taught him to. Falkenberry was on veggie duty and Nicholas made the mac and cheese, stuffing and more.

Around 50 volunteers showed up Thanksgiving morning to help complete the thousands of tasks it takes to put a Thanksgiving plate in someone’s hands. Dozens of pies including pumpkin, apple and pecan, were cut into hundreds of slices and boxed. Bread was sliced and bagged. Tucker’s gravy was moved from a massive pot on the stove, to a pitcher, to individual ramekins. 

An assembly line was formed and the boxes were loaded with all the Thanksgiving staples: turkey, ham, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, mac and cheese and corn. Each box was paired with a bag containing bread, dessert, gravy and utensils. 

The assembled meals were then grouped by order, loaded into volunteers’ cars, and delivered. A total of 131 meals were delivered to first responders working the holiday — at Mon EMS, WVU Police, Morgantown Police Department, Granville Fire Department and other agencies.

The church has been delivering meals to first responders for about eight years, King said. Nursing home staff received 185 meals, a new addition to the program.

“I think, for me, it was realizing how hard these people had worked,” King said. “And so we wanted to give something back to the nursing home staff. You know, they’re so overwhelmed.”

Meals were sent to Unity Manor and Friendship room also. Another couple hundred meals, mainly to homebound people and senior citizens, were also delivered. 

Finally, meals were handed out to those that came in to pick them up.

Nicholas said she was happy to be able to cook dinner again.

“Last year was, it brought me down because I was like, ‘oh, man, are the people going to eat? Who’s doing anything for and what’s happening?’ But now, I’m praying so hard that next year, we can all be together,” Nicholas said. “I’m praying because it’s a blessing to see us all together. And then seeing people eat your food is really, really excellent. What I love the most.”

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