Many Americans traveled during the recent Thanksgiving weekend, but thousands in the Washington metropolitan area stayed put to cook, deliver meals and decorate vestibules for those without families and those unable to spend time with relatives.

At least 4,000 meals were prepared from Northeast in the District to Alexandria, not only for low-income residents and seniors but also for church members to fellowship at their respective communities.

Some of the food shared Thursday, Nov. 26, included roasted turkey, string beans, baked macaroni and cheese, slices of pumpkin pie and even popcorn with a dozen spices to choose from and sprinkle in each bag.

“People cooking, cleaning and setting up tables on their own time to make sure others feel good is just a blessing,” said Keiffer Bent, pastor at Berwyn Baptist Church in College Park, which held its third annual Thanksgiving Day community dinner. “We had some rough times this year. We had some good times this year, but we come together with the purpose to give thanks.”

An Assembly Line

An Assembly Line

One of the busiest places on Thanksgiving Day was in Northeast at Food & Friends, where hundreds of volunteers helped package, carry and deliver 3,500 meals to those with critical illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and Alzheimer’s.

The menu, which included cornbread stuffing, butternut squash soup and fresh fruit, was specially prepared based on their clients’ diets.

And while all 52 staff members came to the nonprofit organization’s Riggs Road building to help, volunteers including D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Maryland) brought family members and stood in a makeshift assembly line to pack up turkeys, dinner rolls and other food.

Nearby, Marcella Usher of Cheltenham, Maryland, swiftly placed dozens of the 1,400 pumpkin and apple pies on carts.

“I love it here. I’ve volunteered for Food & Friends for 20 years,” she said. “I can’t see my living my life any other way than by giving back.”

After wrapping each meal and placing it on carts, Marquis Caldwell, 17, a senior at Bladensburg High School in Bladensburg, helped push the carts outside and put the packages inside vans for drivers to transport and give to residents throughout the region.

“I know what we are doing helps the community,” said Caldwell, whose mother works as a receptionist at Food & Friends. “I know I could be sleep in bed right now, but why not do something that helps others?”

Homeless in Northwest

Homeless in Northwest

The temperature on Thanksgiving morning hovered around 40 degrees, so volunteers brought hot meals for dozens of homeless men and women at Franklin Square Park in Northwest.

Each person received hot food such as string beans, corn and sweet potatoes with a warm beverage.

Charles King stood in line to get a container of food being served by volunteers and members of Bible Way Church in Northwest.

“It’s good they are doing something like this in the community, especially around the holidays,” said King, who has stayed at various homeless shelters in the city. “I come out here every time [Bible Way] has something.”

Before people were served, Bible Way Associate Pastor James Jenkins prayed over the food. He said the church comes out to Franklin Square once a month to not only feed the homeless, but to provide spiritual guidance, hats and other clothing items.

Angelique Williams organized the effort to feed the homeless as part of the church’s outreach program.

“I just wanted to do something for the holidays, especially those less fortunate and those who don’t have families to go,” she said. “I had to pray, pray and pray. I had to depend on God just for the preparation of the food and gathering the people who wanted to help and get up out of bed early. It was an honor to do this.”

Volunteering Benefits the Whole Community

Volunteering Benefits the Whole Community

Olivia Byrd and Tatyana Kincherlow arrived at Community Praise Center Church in Alexandria to inject seasoning inside a turkey, set up tables and perform other duties as part of the church’s second annual Thanksgiving Day program and dinner.

Byrd, 26, and Kincherlow, 19, aren’t members of the church and weren’t raised in the D.C. area. They attend Howard University in Northwest and heard about the church’s event from a fellow student.

When Byrd, a native of Sacramento, California, arrived in the District, she noticed the number of homeless people in the city. Instead of majoring in education and becoming a teacher as she originally planned, she decided to study human development/psychology and sociology to help combat poverty.

“Living in D.C., I noticed the homeless population is increasing rapidly, so I want to give back whenever I can,” said Byrd, who’s scheduled to graduate next year. “Doing research on poverty is what I want to do. That and volunteering is a way to help the community.”

Edna Johnson of Alexandria appreciated not only the work of the Howard students, but also the dinner menu where most of the food had a vegan-flavor such as “seiturkey” smothered in gravy, candied yams with brown sugar glaze and cornbread stuffing.

“I heard it was going to be a healthy menu, so I wanted to give it a shot,” said Johnson, a member of Community Praise. “My family doesn’t live here, so I wanted to meet some more people from the church and community on Thanksgiving.”

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