By Colleen S. Good
Times West Virginian
At around 10 a.m. Thursday, volunteers at the Union Mission will start loading their cars with food, heading out to deliver Thanksgiving meals to area residents in need.
The deliveries will finish up around 11 a.m., when more volunteers will come to start setting up for the Union Mission’s noon sit-down Thanksgiving meal.
But the preparations for Thanksgiving dinner started long before Thanksgiving Day.
“We have our turkeys here usually by the third week of October,” executive director George Batten said.
He said there were 63 turkeys this year, and staff members started baking and slicing them Nov. 8.
“We’re able to cook a limited number of turkeys at a time, so we have to go through that process,” Batten said. “It takes a lot of energy and a lot of time.”
While they’re getting ready for Thanksgiving, the Union Mission is still working to prepare regular meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner at the soup kitchen. This also puts limitations on kitchen space.
But when Thanksgiving Day finally arrives, it all comes together.
“It’s kind of anti-climactic. You wake up, you get here, and you do everything you can to get it done, and then you crash and go home to do your own Thanksgiving,” Batten said. “But you start with the concerns of where are we going to get the food to make the meals, and we watch God provide that. Then you wonder where you’re going to get the staffing and volunteers for the meals, and you see God provide that.
“It will be amazing to see the number of people we have who will show up to help us.”
Batten said they are still accepting volunteers for Thanksgiving, particularly people to put together the meals that will be delivered to people’s homes and drivers to deliver those meals.
“We will start putting together meals to go out the door at 9:30 a.m., and at 10 a.m. the drivers will start taking those meals out. Then at 11 or 11:30 a.m. we’ll shift to preparing for the in-house, sit-down meal and get the tables set up,” Batten said.
Anyone who wants to volunteer should call the Mission ahead of time to let them know they’re coming, Batten said.
“That process speeds things up in a major way for the people who have donated their time,” Batten said. “We understand they’re giving up their holiday to be here, and we want to care for them, and that process will make it much easier.”
The meal will begin at noon.
“We serve the turkey, sweet potatoes, green beans, rolls and pie,” Batten said.
The Union Mission has been providing these meals to between 600 and 1,000 people for well over a decade. Batten said that as the years have gone by, it’s become less stressful to plan, as “we just accept it’s going to happen.”
“It’s like a snowball: It will roll down the hill. We don’t need to worry about it,” Batten said. “God will provide, and people have big hearts.”
After the day is done, they expect to have delivered and served meals to around 800 people this year. Eight staff members and around 100 volunteers will make this enormous feat possible.
Batten said the compassion he sees from people around the holidays is heartwarming.
“It’s compassion toward people who have less than they do, who need supernatural provision for their hearts in their lives,” Batten said. “Our volunteers really get behind the idea of being the hand of God extended to people in need.”
In addition to the Thanksgiving home deliveries and sit-down meal, the Union Mission will be serving breakfast and supper as usual.
Batten said that if anyone has any additional turkeys they want to donate, they won’t go to waste.
“If it comes in after, we’ll save it for Christmas,” Batten said.
The Union Mission is still accepting requests for Thanksgiving meals. Individuals or families in need of a meal may call the Union Mission at 304-363-0300 and press 201. People who would like to volunteer may also call 304-363-0300.
Email Colleen S. Good at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.