FAIRMONT – While most people take off work for the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s just another work day for the workers of food pantries and soup kitchens.
Thanksgiving is normally busier than usual because everyone who can’t afford a holiday meal can turn to these pantries for help. For example, the Union Mission provides hundreds of Thanksgiving meals.
“We’re planning on about serving 800, with about 100 in-house,” said George Batten, executive director of Union Mission. “Twelve o’clock is lunch. If they can’t get here for lunch, come for supper because we serve three meals a day, 365 days a year.”
According to Batten, the Mission prepares meals to send to those in need, and staff members and volunteers come in to cook them up and deliver them. With the amount of people who need help, the Union Mission needs help to make Thanksgiving happen.
“Thursday we’ll start taking meals out the door at 10 a.m.,” Batten said. “We’ll spend tim putting meals together before that.”
The holiday is also a big serving day for the Soup Opera, which brings in volunteers from Christian Love Ministries to help handle the turkey rush. The Soup Opera serves meals in-house, so the kitchen is an area of commotion during lunch.
“In the past, we’ve served around 60 to 70,” said Misty Tennant, director of the Soup Opera. “But since we’ve been so busy here lately with all the new people in town. I believe we’ll have close to 100 people.”
In order to handle the volume, the Soup Opera brings in volunteers who also want to help out the hungry on the holiday. Tennant said the organization could always use more help, so the those interested in volunteering can also show up to serve if they want to.
“We’ll have all the trimmings like sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls,” Tennant said. “If anyone wants to come in and volunteer, they can come in from 9-1 to help serve or help fix the meal.”
Those who do get food from either organization come from all walks of life. Batten said that the Union
Mission serves a lot of families, who otherwise may not have enough food to go around.
“There’s a lot of family and older people that we serve,” Batten said. “We’ve had people in the past tell us that they wouldn’t eat if we didn’t do this.”
For Batten, this has been his Thanksgiving routine for 20 years. Although the work cuts into holiday time, he said he enjoys serving the people who wouldn’t even get a holiday if not for the Mission or other food pantries.
“I’ve been doing it 20 years and they have been doing it longer than that,” Batten said. “It’s just a blessing to be able to give back, just warms the heart.”
The Union Mission begins serving Thanksgiving lunch at Noon, and the Soup Opera begins serving at 11 a.m.
Batten said those in need of food on Thanksgiving can call the Union Mission to request delivery, and the organization can be reached at (304) 363-0300.