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Published: Thursday, 11/22/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Volunteers prepare, serve free Thanksgiving meal for those in need

Volunteer Noah Power, 11, serves food to Ryan Kinnison of Northwood during a Thanksgiving dinner sponsored by House of Bread Ministries Inc. at  Bethlehem Baptist New Life Center. Volunteer Noah Power, 11, serves food to Ryan Kinnison of Northwood during a Thanksgiving dinner sponsored by House of Bread Ministries Inc. at Bethlehem Baptist New Life Center.

Joni Meyer-Crothers of Sylvania Township was a single mother of three and recently divorced in 1993 when she made a promise to God to give back to the community if she could pull through the difficult time.

She has since remarried, raised her children, adopted four more, and started a blog where she signs up volunteers to help those in need.

On Wednesday, she was at Bethlehem Baptist New Life Center, 1430 W. Bancroft St., helping coordinate the efforts of about 100 volunteers who cooked and brought food for a free Thanksgiving meal after signing up on her Web site, freetastesgood.com, where she gives tips on using coupons.

“I could not feed my children,” Ms. Meyer-Crothers, 45, said. “I was young and most people just judged me, formed an automatic opinion of me, and didn’t help. And that’s when I made a promise to God that if I got through this, I’d give back and make a difference and not judge but encourage.”

The Oregon native was 25 at the time, with three children, the youngest was 6 months old; the other two were 4 and 5.

To organize the Thanksgiving dinner Wednesday, Ms. Meyer-Crothers partnered with House of Bread Ministries Inc., which canceled its free holiday dinner originally planned at the church for last Sunday and hosted it Wednesday instead, said Pamela King, 61, the ministries’ executive director.

About 24 people were already sitting down to eat and about 10 had opted for a takeout in the first 10 minutes of the two-hour event after the doors opened at 4:30 p.m. The volunteers were busy heating and serving the meals.

Kaitlin Anthony, 16, of Ottawa Lake, Mich., said she cooked and brought in stuffing and mashed potatoes after her mother saw Ms. Meyer-Crothers’ announcement on the Web site.

“She signed me up because I wanted to. I like helping. It makes me feel good,” Miss Anthony, a junior at Whiteford High School, said as she watched people at the tables help themselves to food. Besides turkey with all the traditional trimmings, the menu included green salad and desserts such as pumpkin pie and cherry pie. There was also ice water, coffee, and chocolate candy.

“I love this food,” Henry Clark, Jr., 54, of Toledo, said “I love this. I am glad I’ve made it here today. God bless them all, all these people who helped. I am just thankful to be here today.”

An unemployed Army veteran suffering from back problems, he was evicted a month ago and has since lived at Cherry Street Mission, 105 17th St. He could not afford a Thanksgiving meal, he said.

Ms. King, of House of Bread Ministries Inc., said that whatever was left of the 300 meals prepared for the event would be given to the Cherry Street Mission.

Contact Mike Sigov at: sigov@theblade.com or 419-724-6089.

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