By Erin Beck
Volunteers dished out Thanksgiving Day dinner to a record number of people last week, according to Pastor Kevin Nuzum, of First Baptist Church of Shinnston. His church holds the annual event.
Nuzum said volunteers served about 440 meals, including curbside pick-ups, deliveries and a small group of dine-ins.
That’s the highest number Nuzum, who grew up in the church and previously served as youth pastor, can remember in decades.
He remembers years when about 100 meals were served. Back then, churchgoers would prepare food and bring it, and the dinners specifically went to those who frequent the Lord’s Pantry.
Now about 400 people regularly pick up food at the Lord’s Pantry. The dinner is open to anyone in the Lincoln feeder area, and they buy in bulk.
Nuzum said some people who called to reserve an order described this year as a greater struggle for them, whether that was because of higher food costs or less discretionary income.
People could pick up reservation forms at the Lord’s Pantry, and the Lord’s Pantry is serving a greater number of people.
The church did not set any income requirements. But most of the deliveries went to apartments where people live who are low-income, lack transportation, or are older, he said. He also said the event draws older and single people who have no need to purchase ingredients to prepare dinner for a group.
The event is made possible through donations and help from volunteers, including those affiliated and not affiliated with the church.
Churchgoers could “adopt a turkey” from their “wall of turkeys” for an about $30 donation to help out.
Nuzum, who said more volunteers served this year, said he was thankful for the volunteers’ efforts. Cub Scouts and members of North Shinnston Baptist Church were among those helping, he said.
Many have volunteered for years. Cooking began at 7:30 a.m., packaging began at 10:30 a.m., and most everything was delivered by noon when the small dine-in began.
“So we’ve got it down pat,” Nuzum said.
Due to pandemic-related food supply chain problems, they had to purchase food from places like Sam’s Club earlier this year, Nuzum said, to ensure all food items were available.
Price Cutter in Adamston, which prepared turkeys, was of great help, he said. A member of his church, Rick McComas, is a butcher there and helped them connect with that business. Church donations paid for the turkeys, but Price Cutter prepared them free of charge, he said.
Nuzum emphasized that while the church only has the capacity to serve the Lincoln feeder area, meaning the area serving Lincoln High, Lincoln Middle, Lumberport Elementary and Big Elm Elementary schools, it’s not meant for only church members. It’s meant for the community.
He said holding the dinner, one of the church’s biggest events of the year, aligns with the church’s goal to take care of its neighbors. He said the church was blessed with the resources to meet those needs.
“I believe that’s what Jesus did,” he said. “He met the needs of the people.”
At the same time, he said he hopes to be more helpful to those outside the feeder area in future years. Some people called from other areas, such as Clarksburg and Marion County. Some were upset that the meal was meant specifically for the local community.
Nuzum said in future years, he hopes to prepare a list of other locations serving meals.
“We’re going to be better prepared when people call and if they’re not in our feeder area, we can help them find somewhere else to get a meal,” he said. “Our intention is not to exclude anyone.”
Nuzum also mentioned several upcoming events. On Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., the church will hold a Christmas rummage sale at its Lighthouse in downtown Shinnston. That sale includes decorations, toys, household items and more. Hot dogs and pork barbecue sandwiches will also be available. That’s a fundraiser for the church youth group.
At 6 p.m. is the downtown Christmas parade; following the parade, the Shinnston Community Band will play around 7 p.m. at the First Baptist Church’s Lighthouse. Cookies will be served, Nuzum said.
The following Saturday is the First Baptist Church’s Christmas giveaway of winter clothes, such as coats.