Harvest Evangelism will be providing its annual Thanksgiving meal on Thursday for anyone who is hungry.
“We learned that people in our area need a meal for two reasons: one, they’re hungry, and two, they’re lonely,” said Pastor Rick Hagans.
Last year, Harvest Evangelism prepared and served over 2,000 meals, and Hagans expects this year the need will be even greater. He plans to have 200 turkeys and to provide a meal for 2,500 people.
Harvest Evangelism will deliver 160 meals to the Chambers County Jail for every inmate and deputy, as well as to the hospital and to individual homes.
“Thanksgiving is not just a food holiday. It’s a family holiday,” Hagans said. “There are a lot of people who are just lonesome, especially a lot of elderly people.”
On Thanksgiving day, the organization will also be serving meals to anyone who stops from a tent set up on the lawn of Lakeview Baptist Church, 1600 East Glenn Ave., Auburn.
Food will be served from 8 a.m. until noon or until food runs out. Volunteers are invited to come in the morning at 8 a.m. to help serve or deliver food.
While serving meals on the church lawn, Hagans says they take time to pray with guests and asks for volunteers to share what they are thankful for.
He said the most fulfilling thing about the event is hearing these words of “gratefulness and gratitude.”
The tradition began 40 years ago when Hagans and a college friend made three Thanksgiving meals and drove around to find people in the area who needed it on Thanksgiving Day.
Hagans said his friend wanted to give the last box to the perfect person and prayed to be shown where to go.
“We knocked on the door and a voice said come in,” Hagans said. “Sitting in front of the fireplace was an elderly African-American man sitting in a wheelchair with no legs and he was reading a Bible.
“I said, ‘Sir, God has blessed us with a lot of extra food for Thanksgiving and we’d like to provide you with a meal.’ He started clapping and calling for his sister. He said, ‘I told you God would provide.’ They didn’t have anything to eat and now they had a meal.”
Hagans said that is how the tradition began. The next year they gave out 10 meals, then it grew to 50 meals and now the annual event feeds thousands.
“I grew up here in Opelika in a poor part of town,” Hagans said. “I know what it’s like to see people that are hungry and needy during Thanksgiving.”
Harvest Evangelism not only provides meals on Thanksgiving Day, but the organization also provides meals every day to those in need, whether they are home-bound or living in poverty.
John Jenkins, 81, has worked with the ministry daily and on Thanksgiving Day for 23 years, delivering meals and picking up donated food from individuals and local restaurants.
Jenkins said that they deliver food wherever there’s a need.
“It’s a real blessing because you get to see their eyes light up and hear them say, ‘I can’t believe this,’” Jenkins said.
Before Jenkins joined the ministry, he said, he was a homeless alcoholic and a drug addict.
“I just slept on benches or on the ground and to get something to eat I’d eat out of dumpsters usually around restaurants,” he said. “I lived like that for quite a while.”
One day when he went to the store to buy cigarettes and beer, he saw a group of men in shirt and ties, and they told him about His Place, a Harvest Evangelism ministry that helps homeless men and men with addictions.
“I didn’t go with them because I couldn’t give up smoking, but the Lord really worked on me,” Jenkins said. “I developed pain in my back and legs and knew I had to do something, so I called the ministry back.”
Now Jenkins helps serve the ministry and community that helped him.
“I just thought, I want to be part of this ministry,” Jenkins said. “I wanted to give back what I’ve been given.”
For this Thursday, Harvest Evangelism asks for donations including turkeys, dressing, side items and desserts.
These donations can be brought either to the Harvest Thrift Store at 1750 Opelika Road in Auburn between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Hagans said it would be best to bring already cooked items and to drop off the food on Thanksgiving morning at Lakeview Baptist Church.
Financial donations can be made online at harvestevangelism.org or can be dropped off at the Harvest Thrift Store.
“If you or anyone you know is likely to be hungry or lonely on Thanksgiving, please let us know and we will deliver a meal or as many meals as you need,” Hagans said.
To contact the organization, call the office at 334-742-0777, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Pastor Hagans at 334-332-3932.