This Sunday is Thanksgiving Day for hundreds of Bradenton men, women and children.
For the past eight years, Mount Gilead Seventh-day Adventist Church has offered a sumptuous Thanksgiving meal designed to feed homeless and needy families.
“Oh, it’s a whole lot of people,” said Henricka Hamilton, the church’s secretary. “Last year we had close to 1,000.”
The church’s eighth annual Thanksgiving Dinner is set for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the church, 1803 13th St. W., Bradenton.
Church members set up tents with tables and seats in the parking lot, and the 1,000 or so people who attend are treated to a full Thanksgiving feast.
“Everything you would have for your Thanksgiving dinner at home, we give you here,” Hamilton said.
Oh, it’s a whole lot of people. Last year we had close to 1,000.
Of course, Thanksgiving is about more than just food, and the Mount Gilead Thanksgiving dinner is more than just a meal. It’s a festive social event where families can celebrate together and kids and adults can make new friends. A live band provides music to help maintain a party atmosphere.
The neighborhood around the church has more than its share of homeless people, Hamilton said. But the dinner also attracts families from surrounding areas. Some may be temporarily going through difficult financial times and can’t give their kids a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Others may be single people, new to the area, who don’t want to go through the Thanksgiving holiday week alone.
Everyone is welcome. Anyone who shows up will be treated to a lavish Thanksgiving dinner.
The food comes from donations from church members, outside donors and businesses.
Everything you would have for your Thanksgiving dinner at home, we give you here.
“The businesses have helped us a lot,” Hamilton said. “Publix, Walmart, other businesses have all been very good to us.”
The church members and the donors want to make sure there’s plenty of food for the people who need it, and as a result there usually are lots of leftovers. Church members take the leftovers to local shelters, so the Mount Gilead Thanksgiving Dinner feeds more people than the 1,000 who show up at the church.
It takes more than just food to make the annual dinner a success, Hamilton said. Dozens of volunteers help make the event work every year. Many have no other connection to the church and just come to help.
“We have a lot of volunteers,” she said. “They are not all from our church. Last year we had a group of nursing students.”
It’s not too late to volunteer. If you’re interested, show up at the church Sunday morning and there will be something to do.
Thanksgiving isn’t the only day of the year the Mount Gilead Seventh-day Adventist Church feeds the hungry. On the third Sunday of each month, including this Sunday, the church gives boxes of food — including everything from canned food to meat and fresh vegetables — that provide hundreds of meals to needy families.
The boxes are tailored for each family, so families with several kids get larger boxes than couples and single people.