On one of the two busiest days for volunteers, MUST’s Thanksgiving dinner was aided by about 75 volunteers, without which the meal would have been impossible, said volunteer Linda Warnecae. The only other big day for volunteers is Christmas, she said.
The doors of the tiny, white building tucked off of Cobb Parkway, opened at 11 a.m. Thursday morning, and people from all walks of life streamed in throughout the next two hours.
Those in need
Volunteers walked around the room, passing out plates filled with turkey, carrots, peas, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy. For dessert, there was apple, pumpkin and peach pie, as well as a number of chocolate chip cookies.
People sat at the nearly 15 tables scattered throughout the room, and ate together, swapping stories and boxing extra slices of pumpkin pie to go.
Tameka Stevenson, 28, ate dinner with her two daughters, Alexis, 4, and Rey’el, 2. The three of them have been living in the MUST Ministries shelter since October, she said. When the father of her children was put in jail this fall, Stevenson said she just couldn’t pay all of her bills.
The retail manager said Thursday was her last night at the shelter, and that she was excited to move on with her life. She had plans to look at apartments and extended stay shelters Friday, but was grateful for the meals and shelter MUST had provided.
A learning experience
These are the experiences Arthur Vaughn wants his daughter to learn about. Vaughn, of Marietta, has been bringing his 13-year-old daughter, Kennedy to volunteer at the Thanksgiving feast for the last four years, he said.
“I came out with my daughter, so she and I would have a chance to give back to the community and to give her the opportunity to help others who aren’t as fortunate as us,” Vaughn said, as he watched her daughter carry a tray between tables.
Hannah Monroe, a 21-year-old junior at Kennesaw State University sat at an electronic keyboard in the corner and sang a number of holiday and popular songs, as the line of people needing dinner streamed through the door.
Wendy Watkins hugged many of the eaters, holding her latex-gloved hands in the air. She stood among the crowd and waved to some of the kitchen’s regulars and directed people to their seats. She has been volunteering regularly at MUST for at least 6 years, she said.
Watkins brought her son, Connor, this year because she “wanted him to see how the other people live,” she said.
Not just Thanksgiving
Volunteers are needed every day, not just on Thanksgiving and Christmas, said Warnecae. Just because it isn’t a holiday doesn’t mean people are not hungry. Warnecae is a regular volunteer at the kitchen, and loves that Thanksgiving brings people’s attention to the fact that many are in need of food, but she would like to see more volunteers get involved throughout the year.
An average weekday lunch at the kitchen feeds about 190 people, the same number who were in need of food Thursday, she said. Volunteers are always needed to help with running the kitchen, and Warnecae encouraged interested volunteers to learn more about the open positions on the MUST Ministries’ website: www.mustministires.org.
As Warnecae sat at the front table and passed out “goody bags,” of deodorant, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, the Friedman family waited for their turn to help in the hallway.
Dressed in matching, black T-shirts that read, “Thanksgivukkah,” the four Friedman’s were excited to help out for the first time at a Thanksgiving feast, they said.
“We try to give back. We feel fortunate and blessed and want to give back to others,” said Marna Friedman, of her husband, David, son, Jack, 14, and daughter, Celia, 18.
That evening, they would be eating latkes with their turkey, as this year Thanksgiving coincided with the second night of Hanukkah.
Working the Thanksgiving dinner brought many families together Thursday afternoon, both at the table and those serving the tables, in a spirit of giving and learning. The Thanksgiving feast at MUST Ministries will remain a tradition for many of the volunteers who worked yesterday, they said.
A number of people are in need of help this time of year in Cobb County. Organizations including MUST Ministries and Sweetwater Mission, formerly CAMP help the less fortunate. Here are a few tips on where to find help, and how to give this time of year:
By the numbers:
•There are 1,800 homeless children in the Cobb County school system
• MUST Ministries helps more than 34,000 people each year
If you need help:
• With food, shelter and/or clothing
• Call Linda Oviatt of Sweetwater Mssion on her cell, (770) 241-4302
• Go to mustministires.org
• Call the United Way at 211
• Go to campaustell.org
• The Winter Weather Shelter, run by MUST Ministires, at 55 Elizabeth Church Road, Marietta, Ga., will remain open through Sunday morning.
• This “overflow” shelter is for women and children.
• “The weather will be extremely cold for the next few days; our goal is to keep everyone safe and warm,” said Kaye Cagle, at MUST Ministries
• The hours for the shelter are 9:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m.
• Families at the shelter will have an opportunity to eat breakfast in the morning, Cagle said.
to get involved:
• Go to mustministires.org
• Canned chili and beef stew are needed at MUST Ministries food pantry, Loaves and Fishes
• Drop off donations at 55 Elizabeth Church Road, building 200, between 5:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. or between 5 and 8 p.m.
• Blankets, toiletries, laundry detergent, money, bath soap, deodorant, socks and underwear are the donated items most needed at this time