Kayla McCraney, 12, smiles after taking a bite of turkey while walking over to join a her family during the first annual Thanksgiving Dinner at the Rhema Word Christian Fellowship.
Kayla and Kambrea McCraney hopped, raised their arms, and twirled a lot as they served dinner on Thanksgiving Day.
The 12-year-old twins were moving to the music of gospel group Tye Tribbett & G.A. as they helped set the mood and pace for about two dozen volunteers serving takeout and sit-down Thanksgiving dinners at Rhema Word Christian Fellowship Church, 2340 N. Holland Sylvania Rd. in South Toledo.
"It is very, very fun," the sixth-grade student at Toledo Christian School said as she and her sister took a break to sit down for their own Thanksgiving meal.
"I'd to it three times a year if I had to," she said smiling.
This is the first time the church hosted a Thanksgiving dinner after years of helping at shelters.
"The meals are going fast," said William Gainey, deacon at the church. "Kitchens across town are at capacity. People are coming to us from as far as North Toledo. It's been only an hour, and we have served 140 already."
It was Mr. Gainey and Angela McCraney, wife of the Rev. Ronald McCraney, the church's pastor, who came up with the idea to hold the Feed My Sheep Thanksgiving Feeding at the church after visiting the pastor at an area nursery home. The Rev. McCraney has stayed there for the past four months after being diagnosed with encephalopathy, a brain dysfunction syndrome.
Justin Jones, center, gives Ashley Jones, right, a Thanksgiving greeting while Lyn-sey Bishop, left, serves on the buffet line during the first annual Thanksgiving Dinner at the Rhema Word Christian Fellowship.
"When we visited him in a nursing home, we saw the need, so we decided to start it. We do it for the love of Jesus and to do the work of the Lord," Mrs. McCraney, mother of the twin dancers, said.
Because the church neighborhood is a relatively affluent area, the church has contacted Community Development Center, Inc., a charity that caters for the needy in the nearby Spencer Township. The majority of the meals was provided to them, Mr. Gainey said.
"When the church called and opened their doors for the Thanksgiving meal, we were delighted to partner with them," Carol Shull, a board member at the center, while she took a break from directing volunteers, who were taking boxes of meals to vans idling outside.
"We are running the center on donations and volunteer help 100 percent, after losing our [federal] funding last year," she said, adding that the center was delivering 120 meals to the needy in Spencer Township that day.
While she spoke, a woman came in the dinner room, talked to an usher at the door, ignored the line that was starting to form by the row of food servers, and quietly sat at one of the clothed dinner tables.
The woman introduced herself as Barbara Scott, 59, of Russell Street in North Toledo. She said she was picking up 18 meals to go; five for her family, and 11 for two families who live in her neighborhood and have no means to get around on holidays when public transportation is shut down. She was lucky to have a nurse aide who could drive her around on Thanksgiving, she said.
Dwight Carroll Jr., left, brings a beverage to Addie Davis, 84, right, who finally sat down to eat dinner after cooking through out the day and night during the first annual Thanksgiving Dinner at the Rhema Word Christian Fellowship.
"I am very thankful they are helping us," she said of the church volunteers. "There was nothing [I could find] in North Toledo."
A short time later, Dwight Carroll, Sr., 61, of Kenton Street in downtown Toledo, was picking up two meals for his friends who live in the Cherry Street Mission, 105 17th St. near downtown Toledo. "I am very happy the church is doing this, It is a very, very good thing. A lot of people will benefit from it," he said.
Volunteers were chatting and occasionally swaying to gospel music as they continued serving food, occasionally stepping away for a break and a quick holiday meal.
"I am tired but excited," said Addie Davies, 84, of North Toledo, a church member and volunteer, as she took a moment from serving meals. "I prepared food all last night. Now I am serving it. This is what I like to do -- help others. That's my calling. In a few days, I'll be 85, and I am still moving around."
The menu included turkey and ham with all the traditional trimmings and desserts such as pumpkin pie and apple pie.
Mr. Gainey said the church served almost 200 meals by the end of the day Thursday.
Cynthia Webber, a volunteer minister and the spiritual leader at the church, said the response of the church volunteers to the event was overwhelming and that she hopes the Feed My Sheep Thanksgiving Feeding becomes an annual event.
Contact Mike Sigov at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6089.