Bradenton agency, church offer community meals on Thursday

vmannix@bradenton.comNovember 26, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Her name is Jamie Mantooth, a mother of two whose working husband is trying to make ends meet. But she could've been any of the 700 to 800 people who came to St. Joseph Catholic Church Food Pantry on Monday morning.

There might be no traditional family meal Thursday, otherwise.

"This is THE Thanksgiving dinner," said Mantooth, holding a brown shopping bag with bread, canned vegetables, cake mix and more that will go with the frozen chicken she bought.

"Things have been really rough," she said. "I thank God there's somebody like them willing to step up and help those who can't do it for themselves."

Grace Yodis, who will break bread with her son

Thursday, agreed.

"It's wonderful," the 70-year-old said as she left the Food Pantry.

Another 350 less fortunate will be at First United Methodist Church, 10:30-12:30 a.m. Thursday for its traditional community meal.

More than 500 are expected for Salvation Army's traditional community meal 4-6 p.m. Thursday.

"We'll have plenty for people who come," said Brian Schultz, kitchen manager at the Salvation Army, which has received 120 turkeys from donors. He and volunteer Jerry Velthouse were in the midst of slicing up some of the 80 turkeys already cooked by Monday.

They'll get busy preparing all the extras Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We're looking good," Schultz said.

All three locations have benefited from Bradenton's generosity and compassion.

At St. Joseph, a small army of volunteers was busy from 7:30 a.m. Monday, filling shopping bags from boxes upon boxes of foodstuffs for people who began lining up earlier than that.

They will distribute food 8:30 a.m.-noon Tuesday and Wednesday, but close for Thursday.

"People have been good to us, our parishioners, people in the community, other churches," Food Pantry director Dick Smalkoski said.

"Those who come here regularly get a bag of goods once a month, but this is an extra one for the holiday."

Bruce Roede, a disabled 53-year-old, appreciated it.

"We need this to get through," he said. "It's a big help."

At First United Methodist Church, the kitchen crew will be busy Tuesday and Wednesday making preparations.

Pork tenderloin will be the main part of the meal that will include the traditional green beans, mashed potatoes, bread and pie.

"Everyone's doing turkey, so we're trying to do something a little different," Pastor Adam Zele said.

More than 100 volunteers will be on hand to welcome and serve their guests, many of whom are familiar with the church and its ministry.

"More than the feeding, it's an opportunity to build a relationship and get to know people, most of them homeless," the pastor said. "By giving other people the exposure to working with the homeless, people experience it once and want to be more involved.

"It's not a one-day thing to this congregation," he said. "It's something we do throughout the year."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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