Norwood Church serves Thanksgiving meals to go

Photos by Janelle Patterson Avery Herb hands her sister pre-ordered Thanksgiving meals Thursday along the alleyway behind Norwood United Methodist Church in Marietta.

Approximately 30 volunteers lined up with masks, gloves and jackets to distribute more than 500 meals Thursday in Marietta.

But instead of tables filled with elderly couples, single neighbors and families seeking to serve inside, the pandemic forced some adaptation this year to the traditional meal hosted by the Norwood United Methodist Church.

“We just assembly-lined everything, “ said Michael Williams, a psychology and mental health counseling professor at Marietta College who signed his family up in 2018 to take on coordination of the traditional meal.

With two years of in-person meals under their belts, the Williams family, Norwood’s pastor and the aid of volunteers gathered through Times’ coverage earlier this week, adaptation equaled efficiency and opportunities for new families to serve.

“It turns out that more people who helped us read the paper than watch the television,” laughed Williams. “That’s my qualitative assessment…I think most people called us after [Monday’s story] ran.”

Of those 500 meals, 469 were pre-ordered, said Williams.

“We put together about five meals every three minutes,” described Williams. “Just down the assembly line, they worked it like they were at a buffet and then we had a few people running between the window and the tables.”

Then with volunteers inside and out, the remaining 185 meals went quickly.

“It wasn’t a well-oiled machine at first outside, but we got into a good swing,” said Brandon Herb, watching his three children hand out meals through car doors in the alley behind the church.

The Herb family chose not to physically spend the holiday with grandparents, due to age and exposure risk, but wanted to do something special.

“The kids are doing school, we have work and our parents are older so we didn’t want to expose them to anything,” explained Amanda Herb, stopping to hug her 12-year-old daughter Avery. “Then I saw they needed volunteers in the paper and thought that would be a good way for us to serve, something different, it’s a meaningful activity to be helping people. If the worst of our troubles is we can’t get together, it’s a minor inconvenience.”

Instead, the family is thankful for technology advances that throughout the course of the year have digitally gathered the family to celebrate more, and in ways that others who otherwise couldn’t have gathered in person were able to partake.

Dave Hubbard, pastor of the church, also noted the utility of technology in the day as he slipped about taking photos with his smartphone and asking for individuals to be sure to tag him on social media talking about the event.

“It was grace to see this, people coming to serve,” said Hubbard. “And it went so quickly, the Lord’s work.”

Donations were also dropped off by individuals passing through the alleyway, hoping to support next year’s meal. This year the total food costs and packaging, Williams said, rested near $1,300.

“When people come together to do stuff they can really put together something pretty significant,” Williams summarized. “For $2.60 a whole meal? That makes a big difference for someone who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get out and have dinner.”

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.


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