Matt Thrift

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — This Thanksgiving, residents from in and around York County are being given an opportunity to celebrate the holiday by volunteering to serve those who are underprivileged.

On Thursday, volunteers will gather at Illumine Church in Rock Hill to distribute boxed meals to the hungry, including holiday staple foods such as turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.

The event is a partnership between Feed the Hungry, a nonprofit that distributes food on a year-round basis to those in need, and a number of area churches, including Illumine Church, which is where most of the food will be prepared.

Feed the Hungry, which was started by Ronal King in 1974, will distribute more than 5,000 meals to people in York county and the greater Charlotte area, according to the group’s website.

Donna Jackson, community service coordinator for Illumine Church, said she has been involved with Feed the Hungry for about five years.

“My role for the last couple years is just trying to help put it all together,” Jackson said. “The first year (Illumine Church) did it, we did sweet potatoes for them, ground up celery and onions and then the next year it got a little bit bigger. Last year was the first year we actually hosted it at our church…this year we’re going to be doing the same thing.”

Nathan Loersch, pastor at Illumine Church, said the Thanksgiving Day event is the biggest of the year for Feed the Hungry.

“On Thanksgiving, we’ll have between 400 and 500 people running through this place, preparing meals, putting them in the (take out) boxes and then getting delivered all over the county and beyond,” Loersch said.

“Throughout the week, we are smoking a thousand turkeys or so…and pulling all the turkey, chopping up all the vegetables. We’ve already been cooking the cornbread to go in the stuffing and we’ll be preparing all the food pretty much morning to evening Monday through Wednesday (before Thanksgiving).”

Organizers stressed the importance of having volunteers and partnerships with other churches and organizations to make the event happen.

“Getting other people involved has been instrumental in making it all happen, because they’re just a lot of food that has to get done, so the more people that want to help out — and if it happens to be churches — then that’s wonderful, too,” Loersch said. “We’re just looking for anyone and everyone who can help make this happen.”