While many of us enjoy Thanksgiving with our friends and family, there are many who no longer have family or friends close by to share the holiday with - perhaps due to tragedy or circumstances. There are others who are no longer able to cook a big meal or simply cannot afford the meal’s ingredients for one of the most important holidays of the year.
Kingsport First Baptist Church recognized the need to include those less fortunate for Thanksgiving upon the suggestion of members Bob and Jean Peace starting in 2016. So that year, the church began a new tradition of a Free Community Thanksgiving Day Meal presented in partnership with Ballad Health’s Holston Valley Medical Center.
The second annual event in 2017 served 400 guests.
This year’s Free Community Thanksgiving Day Meal will include a full-course Thanksgiving dinner along with friendship and fellowship accompanied by piano music. It will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m., Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, at First Baptist Church’s fellowship hall located at 200 West Church Circle in Kingsport.
Coordinators Ardie and Mary Ardemagni are excited to bring this event to the Kingsport community for the third year.
“The fellowship hall will be beautifully decorated and the community is invited to sit down and be served Thanksgiving dinner by our wonderful volunteers,” Mary says.
The Thanksgiving meal is for anyone in the Kingsport community and no reservations are required.
“It is for anyone who does not have another place to spend Thanksgiving, or cannot afford to buy food or has no available family or friends, like widows or widowers,” declares Mary. Church members make sure and invite people served by organizations like Providence Medical Clinic, Hay House, Boys and Girls Club, Shades of Grace, Habitat for Humanity and others. Free group transportation to the event is provided by the church upon request.
Ballad Health’s Holston Valley Medical Center provides the traditional dinner of turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, bread and cranberry sauce. For dessert, church members make delicious pies and cakes. Mary says of the hospital, “They are wonderful to work with and keep bringing food in as it is needed. We appreciate them and their hard work so much!” Each guest also receives a small bag of fruit as they leave.
The event would not be possible without volunteers.
“Church members serve as table hosts and like to sit down and talk with those that attend,” Mary says. “Those who do the serving and busing of tables are often members of a family including college students who have returned home for the holiday. It is a real family project as we have entire families who eat their meals at different times or days, just so they can serve at this rewarding Thanksgiving.”
Presently, Ardie and Mary still need some volunteers for this year’s meal. For more information about attending the First Baptist Church Free Community Thanksgiving Day Meal or to volunteer, call the church office at (423) 247-4122.