DADE CITY — It might seem like one simple meal, but that’s only where it starts.
That was Heather Graham’s thought three years ago when she stepped up to help provide a Thanksgiving dinner to those in need in her community.
“I love the feeding aspect of helping people,” she said. “It was something I knew I could do. I just started were I was."
Graham, a wife and mother of two, was still reeling from the death of her father and working full-time, but she managed to pull it off in the parking lot of a shuttered Kash n’ Karry on the U.S. 301 bypass in Dade City.
“The first year was incredible. I believe we gave away 250 meals,” she said, adding that the effort was fueled by church volunteers who cooked the sides and served meals, along with donations from businesses and individuals in Dade City and Zephyrhills.
“The community is generous,” Graham said. “The church has never had to fund any of it. It has been funded completely on donations.”
The second year was successful as well, Graham said, but there was a problem with the location. A lot of the people they were trying to reach would need transportation to get there.
So Graham decided to bring the food to them.
“It’s important to reach these people, because every person represents a soul,” she said. “I want to bring hope back to the people of Dade City. I want to share the love of God because I know that changes everything.”
On Saturday, well over 50 church volunteers gathered on the property of Farmworkers Self-Help, hoping to give out 450 meals, 200 Bibles and an abundance of donated clothing. Youth volunteers helped youngsters with a holiday activity and did a little face painting, and there was a healing tent for those in need of prayer.
“This is a great event,” said Pastor David Pickerall, who started the church in 2009 with his wife in their living room.
“This is our way of giving back to the community," he said. "Our objective is to show people that there are people in the community and that God loves them.”
“It’s really a blessing,” said Ruby Diaz, as she rifled through the bins for clothing for her family. “I have four sons and myself, so this really helps.”
“It’s a pleasure,” said Ollie Marshall, as Crystal Zopfi loaded his plate with cranberry sauce. “When it’s a church event, you know God’s on the move. Someone is going to get something to eat that ain’t got nothing to eat.”
Kathie Coker, a retired teacher who taught students at San Antonio Elementary, said that volunteering at the event is a day-brightener.
“I love it. I love feeding people," she said. “I know the community. I know the need.”
There’s more to be done, according to Graham. She would like to expand the outreach — maybe to a soup kitchen that regularly feeds those in need.
“You start where you are and use what is in your hand, and this is what I have,” she said. “This is our way of getting into the community and letting them know we want to help."