The spirit of Thanksgiving reached from Raleigh to Wilson’s Mills on Monday.
Volunteers came together in Raleigh to pack and later distribute 2,000 bags of Thanksgiving food to families across the Triangle area. Sixty of those bags went to children in the after-school program at First Missionary Baptist Church in Wilson’s Mills. The church is home to the Kids Cafe, a Food Bank program that provides children with a hot dinner four days a week.
The bags distributed on Monday included cans of vegetables, a box of stuffing, ham and an apple pie – enough food to feed four people. Harris Teeter provided some of the food, and its employees volunteered.
Among the sponsors was the Holt Foundation, run by brothers Torry and Terrence Holt, who played football for N.C. State University and later in the NFL.
Sam Wilder Jr., 8, said meeting the two football players was cool and exciting. Sam, who goes to the after-school program two days a week, said he was looking forward to bringing the food home. That way, he would be able to give his family some food in case they didn’t have enough, he said.
Sam said he likes doing homework at the tutoring program more than at home. “Because they got teachers to help,” he said.
Brandon Howell, 10, comes to the tutoring program every day it’s open. He said he was excited to bring the food home, because, “I can help my grandmother out.”
Brandon loved seeing the football players; he wants to play football when he is older. “It makes me ... more confident that I can make it and get my grades up in school,” he said.
The after-school program provides tutoring, exercise at a nearby gym and dinner through the Kids Cafe, said the Rev. Larry Honeyblue, pastor of First Missionary.
“We’re really moving forward and making a difference in the classroom,” he said, noting that students on average have improved their grade-point average by one point. He said the church also hopes to start a Saturday program.
Honeyblue said the Thanksgiving meals and the Holt brothers’ visit were huge for the program and town. The prestige of their visit helps highlight the after-school program, he said.
Terrence Holt said being able to give the meals to the kids was gratifying. “You know, we ... have always thought of Thanksgiving as a time to give thanks and spend time with families and take it for granted that you have a hot meal that someone’s preparing a turkey or ham or something like that,” he said. Helping families enjoy a Thanksgiving meal was a no-brainer, he said.
“But we also know the need is greater than at least Thanksgiving, so if we can use our notoriety to provide some awareness and allow people to see there’s a great need out there,” he said.