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First United Methodist brings Thanksgiving to those in need

Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time to visit family and reflect on all the things we are thankful for. But for many, circumstances in life make it hard to give thanks. Often, the elderly and disabled do not have family nearby and do not have the means to travel. Many do not have the means to provide the traditional Thanksgiving meal for themselves.

Thirteen years ago, the members of First United Methodist Church noticed a need in the community. Jennifer Calhoun decided it was time to get people moving.

“I got tired of people saying, ‘Hey, we need to do something,’” Calhoun said. “So I took it on myself to start it.”

The Doug Sullivan Community Thanksgiving Meal has grown over its 13 years of operation. Originally, there were maybe 400 plates served. On Thursday, there were more than 1,100.

And about half of that number was delivered, many to elderly and disabled residents who have difficulty traveling. They also provide a Thanksgiving dinner to everyone in the Lincoln County Jail, and also to those who spend their holiday serving — firefighters, police offers and state troopers.

But it’s the people of Lincoln County who have nowhere else to turn to that keep Calhoun coming back year after year, filling what gaps are needed among the volunteers.

It takes a lot of volunteers to put together a Thanksgiving of this scale. Several local schools hold food drives for canned sweet potatoes, green beans and cranberry sauce. Several members of the community bring dessert, the Market Basket provides cooler storage and Danny Smith cooked 96 turkey breasts. Church members and outsider donations pay for much of the food served.

The community Thanksgiving takes a community effort.

While working on Thanksgiving, Calhoun said she doesn’t always get to see the end result, but the community has a way of reminding her why she continues to volunteer her time every year. Many of the delivered meals are sent to residents who are disabled and can’t travel, or seniors who have no family in town.

“After you talk to a couple like that, you really see the importance of doing it,” she said.