The free Thanksgiving meal project is organized by Aaron Brassfield, outreach coordinator at Gospel Lighthouse, and has grown exponentially over the past few years, thanks to donations and volunteer work from the community. Last year, 803 free meals were served on Thanksgiving day in Blytheville, and this year that number is expected to maintain or grow, while a group of deliveries is being added to Osceola.
Brassfield said he is prepared to serve more than 1,000 people, but can guarantee at least that many meals. Civic groups have pitched in this year with donations to help purchase food, and those receiving the meal this year will enjoy a ham dinner with all the traditional Thanksgiving trimmings.
The meal will be served beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Senior Citizen's Center on David Lane in Blytheville. Deliveries will also begin at 10:30 -- the group of volunteers will deliver meals to elderly or disabled people who would normally receive service from Meals on Wheels or are otherwise unable to come to the Senior Center. Deliveries of meals will also be made to the Haven of Northeast Arkansas, the Mission and local police and fire departments.
"The beauty of this project is that it's not just one church or one club, it's people from all over Blytheville coming together to provide a free meal for others on Thanksgiving," said Brassfield. "We really appreciate our new donors this year, the Lions and Kiwanis clubs, as well as Gospel Lighthouse, HIS Ministries, Pathway and individuals from all over the county who have donated and volunteered their time."
Financial donations for the purchase of food will still be accepted through the end of this week, and anyone wishing to contribute or volunteer may contact Brassfield at 870-763-6212. Most needed this year, he said, will be help making deliveries, but those who wish to help in any capacity are urged to call so that work for the day can be evenly distributed.
"In a time when our nation is more divided than ever, it is important for people in each community to find ways to work together in helping each other. That is why this Thanksgiving day feeding is done every year," said Brassfield, "so that good people in this community, from different walks of life, can come together and do something good for someone else. On a day that was created for the sole purpose of people coming together as one. And its only at that time, can a community truly prosper. For this city, county and area to move forward, we have to do just that. We have to realize that it's all of us or none of us."
A planning meeting for volunteers will be held tonight (Tuesday) at Gospel Lighthouse at 6:30 p.m. To recommend families or individuals who may be in need of a meal on Thanksgiving, contact the Senior Center at 870-762-1222.