11/10/13 — In times of struggle, an appetite to serve

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In times of struggle, an appetite to serve

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 10, 2013 1:50 AM

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Sylvia Anderson, left, prepares a plate to be served during the Community Harvest Outreach at Woods Chapel Free Will Baptist Church Saturday in Goldsboro. More than a dozen churches and organizations contributed food and resources to assist 200 families.

More than a dozen churches and an array of civic groups and organizations pooled their resources to make Thanksgiving better for 200 families.

"We're called the Community Outreach Harvest event," said Shirley Perry of Woods Chapel Free Will Baptist Church, host church of the second annual effort, held Saturday. "Last year we gave out 100 baskets. We're giving out 200 this year."

Recipients' names were provided by school counselors, she said, who are typically aware of those who could use a helping hand, especially around the holidays.

"We contacted the schools and they gave us names of families. And we contacted the families as well to let them know," said Mildred Ross, another of the event's organizers, a member of Central Heights Free Will Baptist Church.

It's a "big day" for the many volunteers who worked on the project.

"This is our way of giving," Ms. Perry said. "We got all the churches in the neighborhood and the surrounding area, civic organizations and businesses. We're just having it at our church but it's a community thing."

Sandra Spruill, also a member of Woods Chapel, said that the goal of the church is outreach -- "to help people whenever you can" -- and what better time than the holidays.

A full Thanksgiving meal, and all the trimming, was included in the gift basket given to each family on the list, she said. And even more impressive is the fact that it was done entirely through donations.

"We went to businesses, we went to organizations, non-profits, churches, civic groups, all of that in order to get this done," she said. "We got a great response I would say from everyone.

"It's a lot of hard work but the outcome outweighs the work. The number of families that we reach -- we're reaching over 200 families, probably about 1,000 people."

Jimmie Ford, chairman of the Minority Health Steering Committee through the Wayne County Health Department, praised the group's initiative.

"I think it's a good thing for Wayne County to know that there are people who care and when it comes out of the church, that to me personally means a whole lot," he said. "They always say it needs to begin with the church. This is a good example, they're an example for other churches."

Mrs. Spruill said for many of the churches represented, the outreach project is simply being obedient to the example given in the Bible, to be "faithful, diligent and do His will."

"You may think that we're giving you something but believe me, you're giving us something back in return," she told those in the audience who arrived early and were served a midday meal.

"Many of us have come together. We have sat at the table. We have discussed. We have prayed. We have planned this event," added Ms. Ross. "We stand tall in the community and we represent Christ, so if there should be an outreach from any segment it should be from the church. ...

"It's a blessing. We are blessed to do this and we're not alone but we're doing it together. We're reaching out to the community."

The effort is gaining traction, several said. This year, an additional distribution day is planned at a church in Mount Olive, on Nov. 16 at St. Mark UFWB Church.

It's always a challenge for those in the community who are struggling or falling on hard times, the organizers said. But the gratitude by the recipients for the gift is heartfelt.

"One of the parents of a family that I spoke with last night said how she just didn't know how to say thank you to us and she was just overjoyed that someone was giving them a donation of food," Ms. Ross said.