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Volunteers Sue Kelly, Jody Ressler, Dwight Landis and Tom Bochenko serve Clyde and Beverly Angle of Brethren Village as they go through the food line at Hosanna! A Fellowship of Christians in Lititz, where they will serve about 1,300 Thanksgiving meals on Thursday, Nov., 25, 2021.

Twenty-five turkeys, 150 pounds of sweet potatoes, 120 pounds of string beans and 35 cans of cranberry sauce: That’s how much food Sandra Forbes and her team at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Lancaster city amassed for this year’s Thanksgiving food giveaway.

The church provided 527 meals to people in need, which is the most in its more than two decades of doing Thanksgiving giveaways. In addition to allowing people to pick up their food, volunteers at Ebenezer delivered meals to seniors and people with disabilities in the surrounding area. 

“There's a lot of people who don't really have, and we want to be able to help them out,” Forbes, outreach director at Ebenezer, said. “They love it because they say this is the best home-cooked meal they ever get.”

Ebenezer and a host of other churches in the county, as many of them have for decades, gave away thousands of meals Thursday, with some organizations serving food in person and others providing takeout and delivery as a precaution amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hosanna! A Fellowship of Christians in Lititz distributed about 1,300 meals through a combination of in-person, pickup and delivery service, said Tony Blair, a senior pastor at the church. Serving turkey, stuffing, potatoes and a variety of desserts donated by area residents and businesses, the church was able to provide for about as many people this year as they did before the pandemic in 2019.

“It was extraordinary,” Blair said. “I walked away tired but energized.”

Every church’s operation was sustained by groups of volunteers who worked in the days leading up to Thanksgiving Day and that morning to prepare, pack and distribute food.

Sue Rineer, board secretary at Colemanville United Methodist Church in Conestoga, said 87 people came to pick up meals made by 13 volunteers. Serving an older population, the church kept the event takeout-only, but the number of people receiving food hasn’t changed much from years when they did a hybrid of takeout and in-person service, Rineer said.

St. Stephen Reformed Church in New Holland served about 230 people who live in the Eastern Lancaster County School District on Thanksgiving Day, said Cathy Eby, a church member who helped organize the event. This was the church’s 28th year doing the event.

“We’re just delighted to be able to provide this for the community,” Eby said. 

For churches that chose to do takeout-only this year, they missed the chance to sit and talk together with the people they served as a community in the way they’d done in years past. But church leaders said the people receiving their meals were just as appreciative this year.

“I feel blessed that I can do it,” Rineer said. “That’s what it is. The people that have smiles that are thrilled to have something.”

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