Volunteers at Rock Hill Catholic church serve hundreds on Thanksgiving

adouglas@heraldonline.comNovember 22, 2012 

— Walt Brown was on the lookout Thursday morning at Rock Hill’s Willowbrook Crossing apartments.

He knew an army of volunteers at St. Anne Catholic Church had been cooking turkeys all night and ushering in huge pans of ham and stuffing all morning.

He knew somebody would be bringing him and 51 other senior citizens Thanksgiving lunch.

In his wheelchair, the 77-year-old Korean War veteran was counting on it.

More than 100 volunteers toiled over steaming pots of green beans and corn at St. Anne on Thursday morning to make sure Brown and about 750 other people weren’t disappointed.

Families and church members created an assembly line in the church gym and piled food onto plates for people like Charlie Grobusky to deliver to sick, poor and elderly people in Rock Hill.

In a kitchen not much bigger than an average home’s, Rick Morrison, an usher at St. Anne, oversaw the operation that so many people have come to depend on during the past 30 years.

Everyone danced around each other in the kitchen, yelling things like “hot gravy” and “we’re going to need more ham!”

For many people, helping at St. Anne on Thanksgiving Day has become a family affair.

The Watt family from Lake Wylie stood in the plate assembly line, large scoops in hand, ready to dole out the hot, homemade food.

Paula Watt loaded turkey and ham onto styrofoam plates, passed the plate to her 11-year-old daughter, Lauren, to add stuffing and then the plate went to dad, Paul, who heaped a scoop of sweet potatoes on the side.

Riley Watt, 14, did a little bit of everything on Thursday. He kept the supply of styrofoam plates from running out, he took out the trash and jumped in on the assembly line to dish out corn.

It didn’t matter what they were doing, Paula Watt said, they just wanted to help.

Years ago, the Life Center at St. Anne would have been full of not only volunteers but also people eating lunch on Thanksgiving.

The church noticed more and more people didn’t have transportation to come eat, said Pamela Bernard, so volunteers decided to take the meals to homes.

Kids carried bags of food almost bigger than they were out to the parking lot, where volunteers drove the food to the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen and the homes of people who might not otherwise have a Thanksgiving meal.

Grobusky has been on Thanksgiving delivery duty for 20 years. He also helped cook at least 30 turkeys in the St. Anne parking lot on Wednesday night.

“I remember sometimes we fed 1,000 people,” he said.

The numbers of volunteers at the church has grown, he said, and so has the need for help.

The sliding door at Willowbrook Crossing squeaked open as Grobusky carried lunch inside for Brown and all the other seniors living at the apartments.

Brown was thankful for the meal, he said. He also wanted to help bring all the food inside.

He met Grobusky in the parking lot and sat bags of food on the foot rest of his wheelchair. Brown lost both his legs a few years ago to disease caused by poor circulation.

After serving in the war in Korea as an 18-year-old, Brown worked his whole life as a steel rigger on high-rises across the country.

Brown has a lot of stories, one woman living at the apartments said. He enjoyed telling his stories to Grobusky on Thursday almost as much as he enjoyed the lunch sent from the church.

The church volunteers treated the people they served like friends and family.

There was a non-stop race to the finish in the kitchen to stir the greens, tear apart the turkey and slice the many assorted pies.

Volunteers only caught their breath once on Thursday morning--stopping to pray and thank God they were able to serve.

Then it was back to work because people were hungry and waiting for the food.

Morrison gave a quick motivational speech at the head of the plate assembly line as volunteers wrapped towels around pot handles to grab food out of the oven and off the stove.

“We’re ‘gonna do turkey, we’re ‘gonna do ham--bam, bam, bam,” he said.

“Make them nice, make them sweet and don’t be cheap.”

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

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