For almost 20 years, hundreds of volunteers at Memorial Baptist Church in Kannapolis have spent Thanksgiving week preparing meals for other people.
This year will mark the 19th anniversary of a ministry that began when former pastor Don Davis asked the church's men if there was something they could do as a community outreach.
With the help of a church member's family restaurant, the Memorial Baptist distributed 500 meals. This year, they'll prepare five times that amount for delivery, take-out and pick up.
The church already is taking orders for meals, which they'll assemble on Thanksgiving morning. Anyone who is needy or lonely is invited to take a free meal.
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"People just come from all over," said Tiffany Long, whose father, Bob McVay, was one of the ministry's founders and continues to oversee it.
The meal draws many homeless people who don't have anywhere else to go on Thanksgiving.
In 1995, the church opened the meal to anyone who was feeling lonely on the holiday, too.
"There are old folk and young folk who just don't have anyone to sit with at Thanksgiving," Long said.
Church volunteers now prepare part of the meal in the church's kitchen, and other churches have joined in to help. Memorial Baptist will cook and slice 30 hams and about 90 turkeys and prepare the dressing.
Parkwood Baptist Church in Concord donates green beans and hams, and a couple from Memorial Baptist donates rolls each year in memory of their son.
Long said the church was not able to provide homemade desserts last year, so they included donated Little Debbie cakes with the meals.
Dolph Kilby, a high school student and member of Charity Baptist Church in Kannapolis, wanted to change that.
This year, under Kilby's leadership, Charity Baptist is donating all homemade desserts, Long said.
More than 250 volunteers will work to cook, assemble and deliver meals, Long said. During the years, so many people from outside the church have volunteered that some Memorial Baptist members have stepped back so others can "share the blessing."
"People show up (to volunteer), and we don't even know them," said Long. She said that she once was the first person in the take-out meal assembly line, but now she relinquishes her spot to other volunteers.
Church members tend to the spiritual needs of those who share their Thanksgiving meals, asking guests for prayer requests. Memorial Baptist pastor Tim McQueen circulates in the dining room, talking with guests.