Several local churches are filling the void for those who won’t be able to make it home for Thanksgiving dinner this year.
Among them is Berean Presbyterian Church on the corner of Broad and Diamond Streets, which was established by Reverend Matthew Anderson in 1880.
Michael J. Evans, the current pastor for Berean, has led the church since October 2007. He said Berean wasn’t planning on doing anything for the holiday when he initially arrived.
“I came to Berean [and] was waiting to see what they do for Thanksgiving,” Evans said. “It got closer and closer to Thanksgiving and no one was telling me anything. … I figured a big church like this must do something, and I found out that they had not planned to do anything. I said, ‘We can’t do that.’”
Since then, Evans has led a Thanksgiving Day worship service, followed by a Thanksgiving-style meal in the church’s basement. Evans said people don’t have to attend the service to receive a full meal, which Berean offers all day.
Evans added that Berean offered services for the holiday in the past, but only when a pastor was leading the church. He said this leadership is vital in order to organize such events that serve the local community.
Evans said that Temple has been “very supportive” of Berean in his time serving the church. He said two of the first individuals he met – Special Assistant to the President William Bergman and Captain of Special Services Eileen Bradley – are a big part of making Berean’s support possible.
The Church of the Advocate sits a few blocks west of Berean, on the corner of 18th and Diamond streets. Parish Administrator Lynn Buggage said giving back isn’t restricted to just the holiday season.
“We give to the community year-round,” Buggage said. “This time of year is nothing extraordinary for us because we give to the community 365 days a year.”
Buggage said some of the main services the Advocate provides on Thanksgiving Day is a full lunch, along with a food drive that consists of donations of food baskets to the local community, which the church has “been doing for the last 20 years.”
There is increased traffic during the holiday, Buggage said.
“There’s always a need, especially in an area like this,” Buggage said. “So we will see more patrons, but we’ll also see more folks coming out to help … we see families come out on that day to lend a hand, so it helps us to manage the flow of individuals that will be coming our way.”
Buggage added that much of the funding and resources comes from not only the community, but also nearby counties and suburbs.
Like Berean and the Advocate, the Newman Center at 2129 N. Broad St. offers a Thanksgiving-style dinner tonight at 6 p.m. Father Shaun Mahoney said the dinner started about 12-15 years ago and is all-inclusive as university students, faculty, staff and police are invited to join.
“Our Thanksgiving dinner is always one of the biggest events of the year for us,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney added that Bradley leads a program that collects food donations from Temple, which the center packages and delivers to local churches.
Another church that gives back during Thanksgiving week is the Bright Hope Baptist Church on the corner of 12th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue. Bright Hope offers a Thanksgiving Day meal from noon to 3 p.m., along with the Surviving to Thriving Program, which offers free meals during the week as well as working with Philabundance, an organization created in 1984 to fight hunger throughout the Delaware Valley.
Carolyn Rye, a member of Bright Hope’s Board of Trustees, said giving back during the holiday is personally important.
“I just get a joy,” Rye said. “Because at least I know I have prepared food with love, and I can go home and be satisfied because this is what I feel I should be doing.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @Steve_Bohnel