First, some villain stole “God’s Cooker.”
Now, the Rock Hill charity that has cooked and delivered Thanksgiving meals for four decades – whether some thief steals their cooker or not – is in danger of not being able to serve thousands of needy because donations have all but dried up.
“Thanksgiving is in two weeks, and, frankly, we are in a desperate situation,” said the Rev. Ronal King, who runs Christian Feed the Hungry ministries. “We have money for 500 turkeys. But we wanted to serve 3,000 turkeys. Right now we can’t do it.”
The “it” on Thanksgiving is York County’s largest annual holiday food giveaway, which combines the work of hundreds of volunteers who cook, prepare and deliver the meals.
Last year, almost 9,000 people were fed.
“For some people, this meal is all they will get for a few days,” said Donna Houck, a longtime volunteer for the charity. “We always try to offer enough for entire families.
“These people we help are our neighbors, our community.”
The ministry feeds many homeless and shut-ins several days a week and provides help with emergencies.
But the Thanksgiving meal has grown from a few turkeys smoked on an outdoor grill and in a single church kitchen to an event weeks in the making.
Besides several church groups that volunteer, cooking students at the Rock Hill Schools’ Applied Technology Center help prepare some of the food. Still more students from high school football teams help shred the birds for packaging.
Winthrop students volunteer, civic groups help and others from around the city find ways to help deliver the meals by car, truck- and van.
Last summer, the charity’s grill – dubbed “God’s Cooker” – was stolen and never recovered. Chad McGowan, a Rock Hill lawyer and supporter of the charity, bought a replacement cooker that can hold at least 32 turkeys and has two bays.
“It looks like a nuclear submarine,” said volunteer Don Houck, who along with his wife keeps an eye on the new cooker.
Now volunteers are worried that their ministry won’t have enough gobblers to fill the new cooker.
King is set to pick up about 500 turkeys from Walmart this week, and the Houcks are searching for the cheapest prices for the other goods. Some of the food – such as the bread – is donated, but costs add up fast when the charity usually has to buy almost a ton of green beans, a ton of sweet potatoes and more.
But without a surge in donations as Thanksgiving looms, Christians Feed the Hungry will have to scale back.
The group and its volunteers have been honored by Rock Hill, York County and South Carolina. King and others have been given plaques and resolutions and commendations. But without money, 2013 will be remembered as the year the organization could not help as many people as it had hoped.
“For 41 years, we have been out here helping people, and we are proud to do it because it must be done,” King said. “Unfortunately, we had some promises of donations that just did not happen. We right now have to look to those who ‘have’ in our community to try and give something to those who ‘have not.’ We need people to step forward and be the ones who truly show that Thanksgiving is making someone else thankful.
“We are past the point of asking for people to say they might help this year. We need help right now. ”