Thanksgiving service raises funds for food baskets

Published 11:36 am Monday, November 24, 2008

In a few weeks volunteers from the Community Mission Outreach will gather at its food pantry to put together at least 500 Christmas food baskets for families in the eastern part of the county.

The lion’s share of that food will come from the 15-member churches that Sunday night joined for the fifth ecumenical Thanksgiving service the mission sponsors.

Part fund-raiser for the mission, headquartered at the Chesapeake Community Center, and part community-wide fellowship, the service drew about a third of the 400 expected at the gym of Chesapeake Middle School. Previous years had drawn such large crowds that St. Ann’s Catholic Church could no longer accommodate them. That forced a shift in venue three years ago to the middle school.

Email newsletter signup

However, the diminished attendance appeared not to dampen the support of those there Sunday for the mission as they heard ample information about its work and homilies by the ministers of the member churches on what they termed the true meaning of the upcoming holiday.

“The Lord keeps asking us to give thanks,” Father Charles Moran, pastor of St. Ann’s, told the audience. “We are gifted in order to give.”

Bill Flannery, pastor of Defender United Methodist and Bethel Chapel United Methodist, challenged the crowd to make a unique offering that night.

“Everyone doesn’t always have the means to make a monetary offering. But everyone has the means to make this offering. It is a praise offering,” Flannery said. “What will we give to God? This is a collection to God. Let’s lift it up to the wonderful name of God.”

Paul Merritt, pastor of Chesapeake Church of the Nazarene, extolled the audience to remember that “thankfulness in all things is not driven by greed. Let us be thankful that God is who he is.”

After a congregational sing-along of several hymns, Donna Plybon spoke on the recent work of the CMO.

“Our vision is a community where every citizen needing food in a timely fashion receives it. This is an opportunity to examine our spiritual lives,” Plybon, a CMO board member, said.

Started in 1985 as a clothing and food pantry, the CMO for the first 10 months of 2008 has helped approximately 10,000 individuals, of which roughly 36 percent were from Chesapeake, 30 percent from South Point, 21 percent from Proctorville and 12 percent from other parts of the county. That translates into 153,953 pounds of food dispersed from January to October.

Funds to the mission for the same time period totaled $20, 569 with 70 percent of that from the member churches, 18 percent from organizations and businesses and 12 percent from individuals.

For Christmas 2007 528 food baskets were dispensed and the CMO expects the need to be greater this year.

“This year is our busiest,” Donna Riddle, also of the CMO board, said. “We are seeing more and more families. This year we face big challenges and have less money. We are an operation in faith. Churches are our main support. This is God’s work.”

Other member churches are Chesapeake United Methodist, Big Branch Church, Burlington Baptist, Chesapeake Christian, Pomaria Baptist, Burlington United Methodist, Pentecost, First Baptist, Getaway United Methodist, Symmes Creek Baptist and New Beginnings Worship Center.