With Thanksgiving just three weeks away, True Holiness Church of Jesus Christ is making plans to ensure that hundreds of people will enjoy a holiday meal.
For the fourth year, the church will provide a meal to those in need on Thanksgiving Day, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 25. The event is called "Feed the Five Thousand," based on the biblical account of Jesus feeding 5,000 of his followers.
"Spiritually, people need healing and the message of Christ, but they also need their physical needs met and satisfied," said Sonia Lynch-Dillard, one of the organizers of the event. "When someone is hungry, they may be able to hear the words of love, but once the physical needs are met, they are ready to receive love."
The church began having a meal at Thanksgiving because there weren't many events scheduled for Thanksgiving Day.
"We felt it was important to hold it on the actual day so that no one would have to eat alone on that day," Lynch-Dillard said. "We want to bless as many as possible. We are not trying to convert anyone, just help each person know that they are loved and understand the love of God."
Last year, the church fed 100 people. This year, members want to feed more.
"We want to feed as many as possible — at least 250 or more," said Lynch-Dillard. "Initially, we were leaning toward the homeless. That is still our target population. However, we have learned that there are so many people that enjoy and need to spend this day with others."
Lynch-Dillard says they hope to also feed the elderly, who might otherwise have to dine alone, and the needy. In addition, she wants to feed families who want their children to learn the value of giving.
Church members will take meals to people who are unable to come to the church because they are homebound or have transportation issues.
"It's our effort to ensure that all individuals and their families enjoy a home-cooked meal despite their lack of finances, advanced age, failing health or life situation," Lynch-Dillard said
The food will include turkey, ham, yellow and white rice, green beans, stuffing, chicken stew and desserts.
The church is accepting donations to help with the event.
"We are accepting money donations as well as gift cards and uncooked food items," Lynch-Dillard said. "Desserts should be prepackaged and store bought."
To help or to make reservations to attend, call Lynch-Dillard at (352) 279-8313 or Sandra Paulin at (352) 279-5837.
The church is at 15500 Wiscon Road, south of Brooksville.
The effort at True Holiness is among several that local churches are undertaking for Thanksgiving — and many are looking for donations or accepting reservations.
• Fred Glass, who coordinates the annual Thanksgiving dinner for St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, is also hoping no one is alone or hungry on Thanksgiving Day.
"This year we're going to try to prepare food for about 1,400 people," Glass said. "With the way things are out there, we think we're going to get a bigger call for our help this year."
Most of the meals prepared by the church will be delivered to places in Hernando and Pasco counties — to homeless shelters, domestic violence centers, local police and firefighters who are working, families of people in hospice care, families of members of the military under the care of the Fisher House Foundation and others in need.
"If we get a call that there's a family that needs a meal, there's never a question," Glass said. "All I need is an address and how many meals, and we'll bring the meals to you."
The remainder of the meals, about 300, will be served to those who would like to come to the church to eat about noon on Thanksgiving Day.
"If they want to come out and they're alone for Thanksgiving, just call us up and let us know. They are welcome to come in. We don't ask for anything from the people that we feed," Glass said.
There is a lot of work to be done with preparation the night before and deliveries and serving. Glass would welcome volunteers to help as well as donations of turkeys or money.
Call Glass at (352) 683-9666, ext. 416, and leave a message.
Checks made out to St. Frances Cabrini that are marked for Thanksgiving can be mailed to 5030 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill, FL 34609 or dropped off at the church.
• Last year, Holy Cross Lutheran Church hosted its first Thanksgiving community dinner and served more than 100 people.
"Given the great need, this year we are finding it necessary to triple the number of meals and expect to serve around 300," said Pastor Tim Orrell.
To ensure they have enough food, the church requires that people receive a free ticket for the event. A limited number of tickets are being distributed during food pantry hours from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays and at the community bread distribution from 9 to 11 a.m. Thursdays in the church parking lot.
The meal will be served from 3 to 6 p.m. Nov. 24, with a service following at 6:30. The church is at 6193 Spring Hill Drive, Spring Hill.
• Springs of Life Family Church will provide complete Thanksgiving meals — uncooked — to more than 1,000 people.
"We have already begun a sign-up from our regular weekly food recipients," said John Grossi, the church's senior pastor. "The date of the distribution will be at 10 a.m. Nov. 23. We are accepting donations of turkeys prior to that."
Grossi said they will distribute food until it runs out. For information on how to register or to donate turkeys, call (352) 238-8690.
The church address is 19832 County Line Road, Spring Hill.
• Shine the Light Ministries plans to feed 200 people from the Hickory Grove Mobile Home Park on Nov. 24. While the people to be fed have already been selected, the ministry is looking for donations and volunteers.
"We need a large tent, drinks, turkeys, corn, potatoes, bread and any desserts," said Jeff Pasmore, founder of the ministry. "We will be there early, around 10:30 a.m., however food starts being served after 1 p.m."
Pasmore is hoping to have 30 volunteers to help.
The ministry is also hoping to raise $2,000 to cover the cost of the event. Additional funds will go to the Christmas giveaway for needy children.
To help, call (352) 279-3449 or (352) 232-0655 or make donations via PayPal at ShineTheLightMinistries.com. Donations can also be mailed to P.O. Box 3906, Spring Hill, FL 34611. The park is at 1305 Howell Ave., Brooksville.
• Bridge Christian Life Center will have a Thanksgiving dinner open to the community from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 20. There is no charge, and reservations are not necessary. Donations will be accepted. The church is at 7279 Pinehurst Drive, Spring Hill. Call (352) 683-2863 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Starting Pointe Church and the Hernando YMCA, 1300 Mariner Blvd., are accepting canned food items to be used in holiday meal baskets.
"This event is an opportunity to help local food banks as they prepare baskets to help needy families with holiday meal baskets," said Pastor Jeff Moore. "Help bring hope to those less fortunate during the holidays."
Dropoff boxes are in the lobby and are available during regular business hours and during the church service at 9 a.m. Sundays.
Cash or check donations will also be accepted.
Call (352) 428-9241 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
• Christ the King Church has already registered people to receive food baskets for Thanksgiving, but Pastor Allen Sabo said there are a few left.
"Anyone can donate to this cause if they would like, and the extra funds would allow us to reach out to more families," Sabo said.
Send donations to the church at 5111 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL 34606 or call (352) 596-5366.
• New Journey Church, 709 W Jefferson St., Brooksville, will host a yard sale, bake sale, cookout and carwash from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 13 as part of Nature Coast Technical High School's Children's Crusade. All proceeds will be used to provide complete Thanksgiving meals to families in Hernando County.