Dinner church needs community’s help to feed 400 on Thanksgiving

Home cooks can help with the effort to serve 400 Thanksgiving meals by preparing side dishes for the holiday.

A grassroots ministry that serves supper every Thursday evening at the Aaron McNeil House to nearly 200 local residents will prepare a Thanksgiving meal for twice that many people, the group’s founder said.

To pull it off, they’ll need a lot of help from home cooks in Hopkinsville who are willing to prepare extra vegetable dishes and bring them to the Aaron McNeil House between 11 and 11:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

“We appreciate everything that anyone can do for us,” said Donna Williams, the founder of Breaking Bread Community Dinner Church. 

Donors and volunteers have backed the feeding program since it started in the fall of 2019, and the number of people who come every Thursday for a hot meal has grown steadily. Initially, they served about 80 people a week in the community room at Aaron McNeil. That number now ranges from 150 to 200, and all of the meals are served in to-go boxes because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I’m getting a little overwhelmed by the numbers,” Williams said.

donna williams hands woman a bag of food outside of dinner church
Donna Williams hands boxed suppers to a woman outside the Aaron McNeil House on Oct. 28. Williams, who is a member of the Methodist clergy, established the Breaking Bread Community Dinner Church in the fall of 2019. (Photo by Jennifer P. Brown)

For the Thanksgiving meal, Williams already has 25 donated turkeys. Local church groups are pitching in with desserts and some of the side dishes. 

And the need will continue after Thanksgiving.

Williams, who is a member of the Methodist clergy and former owner of a downtown kitchen supply store, established the dinner church because she sensed a need in the community.

But she didn’t anticipate that people who are hungry would be helping her.

Many of those who come every week for the to-go supper boxes also pick up meals for friends and neighbors who are housebound or don’t have a car. 

“I have found that people who don’t really have anything, they want to share what they do have,” she said. “They don’t just come and get something for themselves. They are helping others, too.”

That kind of charity isn’t something Williams expected to see when she established the dinner church. 

“They are carrying our message for us,” she said. “That has really affected me.”

Meals start going out the side door of Aaron McNeil by 5 p.m. every Thursday. A line starts forming as early as 4:15 p.m. 

A few weeks ago, volunteers pushed out 150 taco suppers by 5 p.m. and didn’t have anything else prepared. Williams said she started emptying out a freezer where she keeps extra food at Aaron McNeil, and the group quickly prepared hot dogs, beans, and spaghetti with meatballs. 

“I’m trying to stock up now so when that happens again we’ll be ready,” she said on the last Thursday of October. 

Anyone who wants to contribute food or cash donations to buy supplies may email Williams at dwilliams945@gmail.com. Cash donations should be sent to St. John United Methodist Church, 2808 S. Virginia St., Hopkinsville, KY 42240.

Those planning to prepare food for the Thanksgiving meal are asked to contact Williams by Nov. 15.

Dinner church needs community’s help to feed 400 on Thanksgiving

Jennifer P. Brown | Hoptown Chronicle

Jennifer P. Brown is co-founder, publisher and editor of Hoptown Chronicle. You can reach her at editor@hoptownchronicle.org. She spent 30 years as a reporter and editor at the Kentucky New Era. She is a co-chair of the national advisory board to the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, governing board president for the Kentucky Historical Society, and co-founder of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition.