For those in Wayne County who may not have much to eat at Thanksgiving, members of the Community Harvest Outreach program are providing all the fixings for a holiday meal.
In its 11th year, the group was started by the late Thomas Spruill, a member of Woods Chapel Church who died in January 2019.
His wife, Sandra Spruill, carried on the program. She said her husband started it because he wanted to give back to the community. Woods Chapel Church is the host church for the event, but White Oak Grove Church and Second Birth Ministries also help.
“We started giving out turkey baskets to 100 families,” she said. “Now we do 400 families in the community.”
In past years, the organization has provided a sit-down meal to people in the community, but because of COVID-19, is just giving out food boxes instead.
“Normally we would have a meal, and community leaders would come out and talk to the people,” Spruill said. “We’d also have Wayne County Mental Health, Goldsboro Pediatrics and the mayor speaking.”
The sit-down meal would normally be served at Woods Chapel Church, but it has also been served at the Community Crisis Center and Eastern Wayne Middle School, where the school band and Drummers World would perform.
Spruill said the meal would include hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken, chips, baked beans, a salad and a drink. After the meal, participants would receive a basket of food to take home and prepare for their Thanksgiving meal.
“Because of COVID, this year we are doing a drive-thru pickup again,” Spruill said.
Local school counselors and social workers send the organization anywhere from five to 10 names of families they feel would benefit from the program, Spruill said. And the group also contacts some of the local charter schools.
Each participant receives a basket of food — everything necessary for a Thanksgiving meal, including a turkey, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, corn, sweet potatoes from the Food Bank of North Carolina, cranberry sauce, cake mix and stuffing.
“We purchase the food through donations,” Spruill said. “We contact individual donors and companies in Wayne County, North Carolina and Virginia, and they donate.
“It costs about $50 to feed a family of five or six. So we ask people to sponsor at least one family. Some businesses in the past have sponsored five families. Churches have sponsored up to five families.”
With the donated money, members of Community Harvest Outreach purchase food from local stores, including Walmart, Piggly Wiggly, Carlie C’s and Sam’s Club.
Spruill said participants are very grateful that somebody would take time to do an event like this one.
“They bring tears to our eyes,” she said. “Some bring their children when they come. Some don’t have a way to get there. And if they don’t, we make sure they get a meal. We have been up at night taking things to people. We’ve had some families we would deliver to.
“But we make sure that before Thanksgiving Day that everybody on our list got their basket of food.”
Spruill said it’s gratifying to be able to feed the hungry in the community.
“We want to be able to do more,” she said. “We wish we could do more than just Thanksgiving. Hopefully one day we will be a nonprofit and we will have more funds to be able to do more throughout the year.
“Our church is very supportive, and our pastor is very supportive. We just feel like this is what God wanted us to do — to help our community.”
Spruill said her late husband was a giving person and always wanted to give back to his community in some way. Then he came up with the idea of Community Harvest Outreach.
“It wasn’t very hard to persuade people because everybody in their heart wants to give,” she said. “Once he started, it just grew. We promised him before he passed away that we would continue it.”
This year’s Thanksgiving meal basket distribution began Wednesday and continues Thursday from 2 to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Woods Chapel Church, 928 E. New Hope Road.