Tending to the needs of its community
Mount Gilead Seventh-Day Adventists feeds more than 1,000 meals to families
BRADENTON -- Pastor Everis Clarke is a humble man.
"We're just trying to do what we can to tend to the needs of the community," he said, as struggling families and the homeless lined up at Mount Gilead Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 1803 13th St. W.
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As it turns out, the little congregation of about 177 made a mighty difference on Sunday.
Church members served more than 1,000 early Thanksgiving meals to neighbors, and anyone else who wanted to drop by the church, located in a former Salvation Army building in downtown Bradenton.
"It's a beautiful thing," said a beaming Clarke of the early Thanksgiving tradition.
The church began supplementing its monthly food distribution five years ago with early Thanksgiving, after a homeless client told congregation member Claudia Henry that canned goods were fine, but that he had no place to cook.
"He was living under a bridge," Henry said.
In its first year of early Thanksgiving, the church served 250 meals and the number has been increasing every year, Henry said.
Things may be getting better in the community, but it's still tough out there, Clarke said of the need the church is meeting with its largest outreach.
In addition to a hot meal, neighbors also got packaged food, blankets and sweaters to take home.
The early holiday meal filled empty bellies, and also gave church members a warm feeling.
"I am elated about it. It's awesome," said Henricka Hamilton.
Floretta Calder, who handles the distribution of staples from the food pantry, said helping her neighbors is a pleasure.
"I enjoy doing it for those who need help," Calder said.
Every third Sunday, the church distributes food from its pantry.
Student nurses from Southwest Florida Technical Institute also helped out, checking blood pressure and ladling food.
"You see families and you see children coming through the line and it makes you feel sad," said one of the students, Catressa Bowie.
But Bowie knew she was helping those who needed it most, including an older man who asked servers only for soft foods.
"I ain't got no good choppers," he explained to her.
James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter@jajones1.