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St. Thomas'
Community Thanksgiving Dinner
November 22, 2001

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from the News & Record Thursday November 22, 2001

Church prepares for holiday feast

Since 1984, St. Thomas Episcopal Church has served Thanksgiving dinner to hundreds of people in Reidsville.

By Leslie Brown

Staff Writer 

REIDSVILLE - The dining hall at St. Thomas' Episcopal Church was quiet Wednesday afternoon and nearly empty, except for a small group of people milling around the kitchen, slicing turkey and scrubbing pans.

But by 11 a.m. today, members of St. Thomas are expecting the hall to be filled with chatter and overflowing with people taking part in the church's yearly Thanksgiving feast.

For 17 years, the church on Lindsey Street, with the help of community volunteers, has prepared Thanksgiving dinner for the community.

Members say for a few hours each year the dinner brings together an eclectic mix of folks: the down-and-out, the elderly, even working-class families who come out to enjoy the camraderie.

It's really a neat experience," said Bill Oldland, the minister at St. Thomas.

"It gives people the opportunity to live in the commission of Christ, and it lets our members see what it means to be out there reaching out to people in need," he said.

balsley_tom.jpg (80613 bytes) Attendance at the dinner has grown sixfold since it was first held in 1984. That year about 25 people showed up, said Tom Balsley, a 30-year member of the church.

Balsley said so few came out that first year that he hopped in his car and drove around downtown Reidsville in the pouring rain, looking for people who appeared homeless or "looked like they needed a meal."

He wound up driving about a dozen people to the church that day. That was the last time Balsley had to go out looking for people who needed a homemade Thanksgiving meal.

Last year, about 150 people ate dinner at St. Thomas, and another 250 meals were delivered to homebound people.

Church members are expecting a similar turnout today.

As in past years, volunteers from other area churches as well as the Salvation Army will be helping St. Thomas members serve food.

The Salvation Army purchased most of the food, including 96 pounds of green beans, 144 pounds of candied yams and 64 pounds of stuffing. An "anonymous" donor purchased about 30 turkeys that were cooked by St. Thomas members.

The Sanitary Cafe will prepare all the vegetables. The restaurant also took up donations to help pay for some of the food.

"This is very much a community function," Oldland said.

 "We couldn't do this without help from others," he said.

One of those is Gordon Knowles, who on Wednesday dropped off a sweet potato pie at the church.

Knowles said although he is not a member of St. Thomas, he wanted to help out because "there are a lot of people who wouldn't have a Thanksgiving dinner without what they're doing."

Kris Rogers, a St. Thomas member, said it's that type of attitude that's helped the Thanksgiving dinner continue.

"Jesus says 'If you love me, feed my sheep,' " said Rogers while tossing a fleck of meat from a turkey leg into a cellophane pan.

"Christ calls for us to do in the community and the world. We're just helping draw the community together."

Contact Leslie Brown at 627-4881, Ext. 137, or

Click on any of the images to see a larger version

St. Thomas'
Parish Hall
Reidsville, N.C.

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Photos courtesy of
Tom Ham

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Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them.   Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Collect for Thanksgiving Day
from the Book of Common Prayer, September 1979, p. 246