Thanksgiving was a busy day for MUST Ministries. While an army of volunteers was in Marietta Square coordinating Gobble Jog, another platoon stayed back at the ministry’s Elizabeth Inn Shelter off Cobb Parkway.
Their mission: to provide hot plates of turkey and sides to over 200 people who otherwise may not have had a Thanksgiving meal.
As guests walked through the door, they were met with a smile and a hot plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and all the fixin’s courtesy of a group stationed in the kitchen.
Among them was Woodstock resident Kim McWhirter, who was busy keeping the hot serving dishes full.
McWhirter, who sells physical therapy equipment, is a regular volunteer at MUST, serving breakfast regularly with his church, Woodstock City Church, for the past two years. He said he’s got a simple reason for doing it: “to serve God.”
“I’m here to serve him, and I see him all over in this room,” he said. “His love for us that he showed for us with his son, Jesus, that love, we’re commanded to show to other people and allow him to live through us, and it’s through his grace and his love that any of us are here. It’s all about the love of Jesus and sharing it with people who need it.”
More volunteers roamed the cafeteria with trays of pie, cake and cranberry sauce at the ready.
Son Jamal Savane, 13, carried the heavy tray around while mother Erika Rogers offered desserts.
“We just wanted to give back,” Rogers said. “He’s 13, and I always told him once you’re a teenager, we’re going to come and volunteer so he can understand how fortunate we really are. The way the economy is today, anyone can fall into this situation.”
Savane said the experience had a big impact on him.
“I really feel more humble,” he said. “I really don’t have anything to complain about because these people don’t have places to live or places to eat every day. I just ask that God helps them.”
All in all, volunteers served up 10 turkeys, nine hams, over 100 pounds of mixed vegetables, 10 sheet pans full of stuffing, 10 sweet potato pies, four Bundt cakes, 10 pumpkin pies and more to feed the expected 200-plus hungry men, women and children.
Preparing all this food was no simple task, and it wouldn’t have been possible without a lot of help, said longtime MUST volunteer Thanetta Gentry of Marietta.
It started on Saturday when a volunteer from Mount Paran Church deep fried all the turkeys. On Tuesday, another volunteer from Woodstock City Church came in Tuesday to carve the turkey and hams.
MUST volunteers cooked everything else starting Monday, in between the regular three meals a day they serve to the clients staying there.
Gentry, a retiree who volunteers three days a week at MUST, said she has gotten to know many of the clients, and seeing how thankful the clients are makes all the work worth it.
“When they come in and you see the smiles on their faces and the enjoyment, they’re so happy to say I got me a hot meal today,” she said. “It was worth every minute of the time that we spent preparing the food.”
Among the grateful diners were Latricie Lovett and Brittney Smith of Atlanta along with their 3-year-old son, Roman.
The two said they had been struggling to keep a roof over their heads for about two years before they ended up at MUST in October, but they were all smiles as they spoke with the MDJ.
“We really didn’t have nowhere to go,” Lovett said. “Our church helped us out with a hotel room for the night, then we came in to intake, they gave us resources, so now we do have a place to stay, they helped us with that, they helped us get on food stamps, we have our own case manager, MUST Ministries really just helped us a lot. They just helped us out with a lot of stuff.”