Area food bank, churches help provide Thanksgiving meals to residents in Cleburne County
by Laura Camper
news@cleburnenews.com
Nov 26, 2013 | 2621 views |  0 comments | 69 69 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RANBURNE — Opal Skinner was picking up a ham at Helping Every Area Resident To Succeed, a nonprofit food bank and thrift store, Monday and ended up with a little extra for her meals this week.

Skinner, a Muscadine resident, said she has had to rely on HEARTS to round out her family’s meals since October, after her husband was laid off from his job as a trucker. Kim Lalonde, client service provider, handed her one of the hams that HEARTS received from Honeybaked Hams as Skinner picked out some bread and donuts from the boxes of food set up for clients.

“Is this OK?” Skinner asked as she held up her choices.

Of course, came the answer.

“We’re having a rough time right now,” Skinner said. “It helps us out to be able to get some extra food.”

Jackie Howle, director of HEARTS, said 50 clients will receive a box with the fixings for a ham dinner for Thanksgiving. The Heflin office also has a few turkeys that were donated, Lalonde added. That’s about the same number of Thanksgiving meals the office gave out last year, but it doesn’t really fill the need, Howle said.

“The demand for food is so great; we have to limit the number,” Howle said. “We just don’t have it to give.”

Howle said because of that, she doesn’t let people sign up for meals. She prefers to go through the files and look at the needs of the clients. With such a small organization, it’s fairer, she said.

So, all the volunteers pulled together and called the clients Howle thought most needed the food to let them know to pick up their boxes early this week, Lalonde said.

If HEARTS had requests for Thanksgiving meals that it couldn’t provide, volunteers referred those clients to the Thanksgiving dinner at the Ranburne Senior Center, Howle said.

Celia McCord, a volunteer at the Thanksgiving Day dinner, said local churches organize the event, with each congregation responsible for providing a dish for the meal. McCord’s church, Macedonia Baptist, is providing 30 smoked turkeys — cooked by volunteers at Smokin’ Pig BBQ in Bowdon — and the chicken dressing. All the ladies in the church cook the food and the men arrive early on Thursday to carve the turkeys, McCord said.

Other churches are providing green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, bread, fruit, drinks and desserts, McCord said.

The dinner serves about 250 meals from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each year, McCord said. Many people pick up to-go plates, but just as many eat at the center.

“It’s not about the food for some people,” McCord said. “It’s about being alone on Thanksgiving.”

That fellowship is her motivation to volunteer year after year, McCord said.

The needs are so great, said Leigh Barber, a volunteer with HEARTS in the Heflin office since October. She said the experience has changed her whole outlook on people.

By Tuesday afternoon, the Heflin office had handed out 16 meals, she said.

“When I see people walk away with food boxes, the look on their faces,” Barber said. “I’m just thrilled.”

Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.

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