COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - For many, Thanksgiving is all about enjoying delicious food around a table with family and friends.
On Thursday, First Baptist Church and St. Peter’s Catholic Church came together to make sure that hundreds of homeless men and women in Columbia got to enjoy a warm Thanksgiving feast as well.
The volunteers handed out over 1,500 hot turkey dinners in front of St. Peter’s Church and through deliveries. Organizers said this is the 35th year of holding a big Thanksgiving meal for the homeless and needy in Columbia, and hundreds of Columbia residents came by St. Peter’s Basilica on Assembly Street to pick up the Thanksgiving dinner, all wrapped up into one bag.
“I’m grateful to the Lord for inspiring these people to take care of the community,” one man picking up a meal said. “They are very godly people.”
The box meals were full of warm turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a dessert.
“Whoever helps out is helping the people that really need help,” another man picking up a meal said. “I need help.”
Dozens of volunteers helped prepare and pass out the meals.
“It’s such a blessing to us, just like to the people that are coming to receive our gifts,” Saundra Ligon, a volunteer, said.
Many volunteers come back year after year and said they will keep coming back as long as they can.
“It makes me feel happy and joyful knowing that I can do it,” said Connie Floyd, who also volunteered on Thursday.
Organizers said they felt that with COVID-19 impacting so many this year, it was more important than ever to make sure everyone had a warm meal on Thanksgiving. Normally, the Thanksgiving meal is a sit-down dinner at the Carolina Coliseum, but the organizers changed it due to COVID-19.
“Everybody is stressed, and so one thing we hope we do is give people a little bit of peace, and a little bit of time to not worry about anything else,” Ron Paull, the First Baptist event coordinator, said. “Just come over and get a meal.”
Robert Keeder started the Thanksgiving meal at St. Peters Basilica 35 years ago after seeing the homeless walking around on Thanksgiving day.
“I thought, ‘What are they doing walking around? They’ve got to be fed on Thanksgiving day,’” Keeder said.
All these years later, the warm turkey dinner is still a staple for many on Thanksgiving day.
Organizers said that volunteers also delivered about 600 meals to nursing homes today to give the cooks at the nursing homes a break to enjoy Thanksgiving. Organizers of First Baptist and St. Peter’s said that they took all safety protocols including having all volunteers wear masks, gloves, and social distancing.