Appalachian towns feed the homeless during the holidays
Appalachian culture historically leads families to be fatalistic, often expecting the worse from big business, politicians and newcomers. But tempering that negative mindset are some of the biggest hearts in the country. The people of Appalachia are neighborly, hospitable, modest and brave. They are resourceful and have a sense of humor. They love the land and their country.
These qualities are clearly defined and evident all year round, but come time for holiday sharing, there are none on this earth that are more generous than the mountain folks of Appalachian towns, cities and laurels. Below is a short sampling of some of the annual events put on by local communities to feed the homeless among them.
Every year in Reston, Virginia, six area churches put aside their differences to make the holidays special for needy families. At St. Anne’s Episcopal Church neighbors put together more than 60 Thanksgiving baskets from the food they’ve collected during their annual Thanksgiving Basket Drive. Volunteers from the Reston interfaith group then distribute the baskets to needy families.
For Christmas, St. Anne’s is the spot where gifts are stored for children and adults living within the interfaith community. The interfaith group keeps the shelves stocked at the Reston Interfaith Food Pantry with donated canned and packaged food for year-round assistance to hungry families.
Salvation Army in Greenville, SC
The Salvation Army and 11 other charitable organizations serve the homeless and hungry for Thanksgiving in Greenville, South Carolina. In 2010, when the economy was still suffering from the recessionary blows, the Appalachian spirit went into full overdrive to provide food for their neighbors.
A local television station reported that the Salvation Army in Greenville was going to have to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless sans the most important ingredient — turkeys. By noon, in typical Appalachian style, more than 100 turkeys were dropped off at the downtown location. The turkeys kept coming all day and no one left hungry.
Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries
Knoxville, Tennessee, holds its annual feed-the-homeless Thanksgiving dinner under a tent, since the weather usually remains mild through the season. The Tent of Hope is erected and draws volunteers from across the Eastern Tennessee region to cook and serve meals.
Appalachian musicians serenade the hundreds of homeless families that look forward to this feast every year. Under the tent, diners receive a Thanksgiving feast that includes turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and an assortment of Southern “fixins.” They even top off the meal with homemade pumpkin pies.
Swannanoa Welcome Table
Set in the North Carolina mountain town of Swannanoa, the Welcome Table Life Ministries provides a hot meal to homeless neighbors every Wednesday. For Thanksgiving, the cooks and volunteers at the Swannanoa United Methodist Church don their aprons to feed more than 400 homeless people in the community.
The Welcome Table in Swannanoa is so dedicated to serving food to the homeless that in 2014, a grateful congregant donated aprons to the entire crew. They now proudly tout their Appalachian generosity donned in crisp white full-length aprons bearing their signature Welcome Table name.
The good mountain folks at Union Mission in Charleston, West Virginia, run a number of community programs for the homeless, but their home cooking is one of its trademarks. “We Feed People — It’s What We Do” is their motto. And it surely tells the Appalachian tale of the more than 75,000 meals they serve annually.
For Thanksgiving, homeless neighbors will be served more than 500 meals in a single day. But that’s not all, true to its calling — and a state-wide West Virginia charity network — Union Mission counts more than 40,000 people as recipients of Thanksgiving food baskets delivered to the homes of needy families.
No matter where you live in Central Appalachia, you too can turn your Thanksgiving holiday into a time to truly show your gratitude. Volunteer at the local food bank or Salvation Army center. Donate food to your town’s food bank. Give money to help serve the homeless and the needy families who still remain even when prosperity spreads across the region.
Photo Credits: Turkey Foodswallpaper.com , Volunteer Google Commons