WHEELING - They came by the hundreds, clutching empty boxes and grocery bags in hopes of carrying away some much-needed food before the Thanksgiving holiday.
On Saturday morning, Main Street in North Wheeling was clogged with vehicles and people making their way to the door of the Youth Center operated by the Bethlehem Apostolic Temple and under the direction of Pastor Darryl Cummings. They were all there for the annual pre-Thanksgiving food giveaway provided by the church.
Food was brought to the site in a large refrigerated truck from the Mountaineer Food Bank headquartered in Gassaway, W.Va. This year the church did not receive any grants toward the food giveaway. The food distribution was made possible by the church and many local businesses, including Kroger and Riesbeck's.
Photo by Heather Ziegler
A record crowd of more than 1,000 people turn out for the Bethlehem Apostolic Temple food distribution on Saturday.
Young and old, single adults and entire families stomped their feet to keep warm and held one another close as a cold wind whipped along the several blocks where they waited. At the rear of the facility, church members and community volunteers hurried to set up the tables of food and drink items they hoped would be enough for the growing crowd.
A mother with two school-aged children stood near the front of the line. She said she had been there for several hours so she could assure her family a decent meal, not just for Thanksgiving but for the few days her children would be out of school for the holiday weekend. She explained that holidays were difficult times to feed her children three meals a day. She said her children routinely eat breakfast and lunch at school each morning and she is grateful for that.
An older man wearing a military cap said he just needed a little help with his food budget and came out to see if he could maybe get some meat for his freezer. He was discouraged when he saw the number of people in line.
Bob Kennen of Kennen & Kennen Realty was among the volunteers who worked in the cold weather to help unload the food and set up the tables, some of which were outside on the sidewalk behind the youth center.
"Rev. Cummings told me he needed some help and I said 'I can do that,' and here I am," Kennen said.
Cummings, who scrambled about the center, directed the volunteers who showed up to help, many of whom also needed the food items. Prior to opening the doors to the food drive, Cummings gathered the volunteers inside the basement and offered a prayer.
"Let there be enough. Bless those in need of food and let us be able to make a difference in their lives," he prayed.
Cummings urged the volunteers to be cheerful even if they had to deal with difficult people. He said many of the those who showed up Saturday are probably in dire need and often are emotional.
"Try to show the love of God today," he told the volunteers.
Hours later, Cummings reported that 1,000 people came through the doors and received food. "Not everyone got the same things, but they all went home with something. This was a record-breaking year. God was with us," Cummings offered.