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‘It means the world to me:’ Columbia churches come together to offer Thanksgiving meals to hundreds

Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 10:04 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - This Thanksgiving, families across the Midlands are gathering around the table, sharing blessings and turkey dinners. In Columbia, The Basilica of St. Peter and First Baptist Church teamed up to ensure hundreds of those in need of a hot meal got the same opportunity.

Thursday marked the 31st annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner. Organizers say they served around 1,200 total meals this year, both at the church and in dinners delivered to local nursing homes.

People picking up meals came for different reasons, but all left with a smile.

“It means the world to me,” Jason Riley, who received a meal, said. “And I enjoy the camaraderie because I see a lot of people that I know.”

The people receiving food ranged from those without loved ones in the Carolinas, to the homeless, to church parishioners and those just looking for a hot meal.

“So my family is like from Philadelphia, you know I just wanted to be around people, nice spirits so I found out the church was giving out a little meal so I decided to stop in,” Anthony Scott, who received a meal, said. “So it was pretty good.”

Darrell Brown lost his brother around Thanksgiving, and said it was a blessing to spend part of the holiday at St. Peter’s.

“Yesterday was my brother’s anniversary of his death, and I’ve been taking the last couple days in remembrance of him,” he said. “Oh man it’s a blessing, you know. A blessing for me, a blessing for the people that don’t really have much to come here and be able to sit down and have a hot meal and enjoy Thanksgiving.”

For others like Riley, good eats and good company can go a long way.

“I love the people that I run into on the streets,” he said. “It’s not an easy life, but again as we all work together, it makes things a little bit better.”

Robert Keeder, one of the Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner’s coordinators, said the idea for this event came more than 30 years ago when he noticed Columbia natives going hungry for the holiday.

“Giving was always instilled in me when I was a young person,” he said. “And whether I wanted to carry on with that calling, I didn’t know at the time, but I did. And 31 years later here we are talking about it again.”

The hot meals were complete with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans and salad. Dozens of volunteers come back year after year, and say they always get something from giving back.

“I just like coming here because the people who are here, we have very amazing people who constantly come to eat every year, so I just like seeing their faces and just being able to try and make their days, and they also make my day,” Desharah Israel, a volunteer, said.

Beth Griffin, another volunteer, said she has given out meals at this event for 10 years, and it warms her heart each time. She said this is the essence of Thanksgiving, and is happy to give back to the community in this way.

The giving doesn’t end with Thursday’s efforts. St. Peter’s will be handing out meals again on Christmas morning.

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