Charity in a time of pandemic: Churches change Thanksgiving meal plans

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In a normal year, churches and other nonprofits across the United States would host large Thanksgiving gatherings to provide meals for the less fortunate.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health lockdowns placed in response to the disease, countless Thanksgiving gatherings have been canceled.

Despite this, many are still hoping to donate free Thanksgiving meals to those in need, while also respecting social distancing guidelines to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

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The Christian Post interviewed a few of the many congregations who have switched from in-person Thanksgiving meals to delivery to see how they were making the change.

Central Christian Church of Mt. Vernon, Illinois
Central Christian Church of Mt. Vernon, Illinois | Bryan Springvloed

Central Christian Church of Mt. Vernon, Illinois, has been providing free meals on Thanksgiving Day for the past 24 years, with the past few years averaging out 2,000 meals annually.

In previous years, the majority of the meals were eaten at the church itself, with a small number being delivered to those who were unable to attend.

Bryan Springvloed, executive pastor at Central Christian Church, told CP that in this time of pandemic they are changing things to allow most to pick up their meals instead.

“Our main focus will be a drive-thru pickup and although we are not advertising home delivery, we are estimating around 20% of the meals will need to be delivered,” explained Springvloed.

“Meals will be given out using a drive-thru arrangement with no need for those receiving a meal to leave the safety of their car.”

Springvloed also told CP that his church will do its utmost to adhere to public health guidelines when engaging in their Thanksgiving charitable endeavors.

“We are following local and state guidelines with the wearing of masks at all times by volunteers and social distancing whenever possible. In addition, gloves, sanitizer, questionnaires, and temperature checks will be required for those helping,” he continued.

“Food safety has always been a focus for us. We work with our local health department and community college to have all cooks food safety certified and trained in proper handling of food.”

The sanctuary of Green Street United Methodist Church of Augusta, Maine
The sanctuary of Green Street United Methodist Church of Augusta, Maine | Facebook/Green Street United Methodist Church Public Page

Green Street United Methodist Church of Augusta, Maine, has been providing Thanksgiving meals for locals in need for the past 43 years, having served around 120 people last year.

Sandra Grady, coordinator of the Thanksgiving event at Green St. UMC, told CP that they are expecting around 100 people to take out a meal from their congregation.

“The precautions made by the task force at Green St. UMC follow the CDC guidelines of social distance, mask wearing and gloves for food preparation,” noted Grady.

“The sidewalk will be taped at 6 foot distances for the walk-ins. Roasted turkeys and pies will be delivered to the church lobby and someone from the kitchen will collect it. Door handles are sanitized.”

The preparatory staff will consist of two couples, with Grady explaining that this was “a bare minimum to maintain social distance.” Additionally, three volunteers will deliver meals to locals. 

Congregational Church of Laconia, a United Church of Christ congregation located in Laconia, New Hampshire
Congregational Church of Laconia, a United Church of Christ congregation located in Laconia, New Hampshire | Stan Brallier

For decades, Congregational Church of Laconia, New Hampshire, had provided a free in-person Thanksgiving dinner, with only a few carry-outs taking place.

This year, the church will be giving out 150 meals for pickup, which will be around the same number that was served last year, according to the Rev. Neil Wilson, senior pastor of the Laconia congregation.

“There will be a limited number of people preparing the meals in the church kitchen, much of the prep work being done in individual's homes and brought to the church,” Wilson told CP.

“The meals will be placed in individual biodegradable containers and given to people curb-side with only certain people taking the food from the church foyer to the curb. In all situations masks will be required as well as gloves, and safe distancing practiced.”

In addition to being a reporter, Michael Gryboski has also had a novel released titled Memories of Lasting Shadows. For more information, click here.  

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