Lake Norman & Mooresville

A gift of choice for those who are hungry

Feasting on turkey legs and seasonal pies isn't always a given on Thanksgiving.

For many in the Lake Norman area, the holiday is just like any other day: A struggle, with the question at the end of every meal being, "Where am I going to find my next meal?"

Some who engage in this struggle are homeless, but many are not. From the elderly to underemployed young professionals, hunger has many manifestations.

But on Thanksgiving Day this year, these local individuals will have a new dilemma: Choosing where they're going to eat.

Several organizations in Mooresville and the greater Lake Norman area are hosting free Thanksgiving meals for those in need.

For years, the singles group of Williamson's Chapel United Methodist Church has provided meals to the needy at First Baptist Church of Mooresville.

The annual event is under new leadership this year. Planner Michelle Carruth of Concord said attendees can expect a more family-oriented and warmer environment than in the past.

"We're trying to make it a restaurant-style atmosphere, where the clientele feels comfortable coming in and having lunch," said Amy Hartley, another of the event's planners.

At the end of the meal, said Carruth, she will give away a handful of Christmas trees to families, and Santa Claus will be attending to hear what's on children's wish lists. Planners also will take pictures of the children with Santa to send with the families as keepsakes.

Carruth said she expects the event's budget to be about $5,000 and is using money left over from last year's event. She plans to create a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to plan future Thanksgiving Day meals.

Carruth said she expects to serve as many as 800 people this Thanksgiving.

Nearby, the owners of Big Al's Pub and Grubberia in Mooresville will open their doors for a few hours on Thanksgiving to feed whoever comes.

The restaurant usually does two community service projects a year; last year was the first time it held a Thanksgiving lunch for the community.

"If there's something we know, it's food," said Laurie Gagliano, a manager at Big Al's. "We've been in this business for 40 years."

In addition to serving residents a free Thanksgiving meal in house, owners at Big Al's will deliver food to the elderly and sick.

Angels and Sparrows Soup Kitchen in Huntersville will open as usual on Thanksgiving and serve Thanksgiving-themed dishes. Founder Sandy Tilley said many people are sometimes wary of soup kitchens because of negative stereotypes.

"This doesn't look like any soup kitchen you've ever seen," said Tilley. "We wait on them and pick up their dirty dishes. We treat our guests like we're at 131 Main."

Other Thanksgiving Day meal organizers echoed the desire to squash the dirty, unfriendly reputation soup kitchens have and the stigma attached to not being able to afford a meal.

"The truth is, we're all one paycheck away from being broke," said Carruth, "and everyone deserves a good meal on Thanksgiving."