JONESBORO — As government money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act runs out and people are still struggling to find employment, for some this holiday season may look bleak.
As the pandemic rages on, organizations are working to provide much-needed assistance and cheer to the community.
One such organization, Temple Baptist Church, which is providing the ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal, had to find alternate ways to help the community this year.
Temple Baptist Church Pastor Andy Neal said normally the church provides a chili dinner, but this year, due to COVID-19, they had to cancel the event. Instead, a drive-thru Thanksgiving dinner hand out will take the place of the annual chili dinner. Neal said this year he challenged his congregation to step up their donations from last year to help more people.
“I wanted to increase the families we help from 150 to 250,” he said. “I usually have two families that offer to buy the turkeys for the meals. This year, I have three.
“There is no sign-up,” Neal added. “People just show up, and when we run out, we run out.”
The meal giveaway includes $10 Walmart gift cards to purchase a turkey and a bag with the ingredients to make sides.
“It will be the supporting elements like green beans, corn, cranberry sauce, boxed potatoes and mac and cheese,” he said.
The event will begin at 4 p.m. Sunday in the church’s parking lot, 2834 Race St., Jonesboro.
JTown’s Grill is partnering with Journey Church to host a drive-thru Thanksgiving dinner from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday in the church’s parking lot, 1701 Disciple Drive, Jonesboro.
Lead Pastor Dan Reeves said they will be providing meals for anyone in the community who preregisters for the event.
“It’s a cooked meal that will be pre-packed ... for a family of four,” he said.
The Thanksgiving dinner is an extension of a JTown’s Grill tradition that began shortly after the pandemic, kitchen manager Mary Zamora said.
“When the pandemic started, we were trying to figure out a way to do something on Sundays to provide patrons with a hot meal,” she said. “We did chicken and dressing on Sundays.”
The restaurant previously worked with Journey Church to feed parishioners for Mother’s Day, she said.
“They wanted to give away meals to mothers so they wouldn’t have to cook,” Zamora said. “We just found out (Tuesday) we will be cooking 200 meals ... chicken and dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans and rolls.”
Reeves said there is also an opportunity for sponsors to step in and sponsor a family for $25 per meal. Those wishing to preregister for a dinner or to sponsor a dinner should visit https://bit.ly/3lEUrG0.
For those who previously registered with Helping Neighbors Food Pantry, they will receive Thanksgiving dinner ingredients. Director Liz Ivener said 500 turkeys were purchased with the help of CARES Act money.
“We didn’t do a Thanksgiving meal box last year because we could not afford to do both holidays,” she said.
This year, those who are already signed up with the pantry will be able to visit twice – for the monthly visit and again for the Thanksgiving groceries.
“The pandemic has been interesting for us,” Ivener said. “We have had lots of very young families with no jobs.”
Ivener said they had to reach out and partner with Arkansas State University to recruit volunteers because the majority of their current workers are seniors and are afraid to get out. Ivener expects to serve an estimated 525 families the ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal.
Ivener said the pantry is the combined efforts of about 20 churches and organizations in the area. For those community members who need help for the holidays, but haven’t yet signed up, she said regular visits will begin again on Nov. 30.
“They just have to be here for a regular drive-thru pantry event and show proper documentation. Then they can receive assistance for the holidays,” she said, noting those wishing to sign up for food pantry assistance must show a photo I.D.
Families who are already signed up have one more day to pick up their holiday boxes. Helping Neighbors Pantry will hold one more drive-thru event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday in the pantry parking lot, 900 W. Huntington Ave., in Jonesboro.