Pandemic Thanksgiving: Grove finds way to feed neighbors in Radford

Pandemic Thanksgiving: Grove finds way to feed neighbors in Radford

Katrina Burda packs meals and desserts in boxes for Meals on Wheels participants. Photo by Dana Elise Watson

RADFORD, Va. -- The Community Thanksgiving Meal is a long-held tradition at Grove United Methodist Church. For 16 years, the church’s missions board has provided free meals to the community on Thanksgiving Day with funds raised through donations by church and community members.

In the past, people of the community typically gathered in the fellowship hall to dine and socialize with one another. This year, due to the restrictions in the wake of COVID-19, Grove could not uphold the Thanksgiving meal tradition in the same way.

The number of volunteers were limited, and those who prepared the food remained gloved and masked. The most significant change was that instead of dining in, the church implemented curbside pickup. Delivery was limited to Meals on Wheels participants.

“Usually we have people dining in as well as people delivering out to the community, so this is a whole new format for us,” said Susan Lesko, Grove missions board co-chair.

Additional changes were implemented when the usual food vendor closed, and the turkey and larger items were purchased through Food City, Radford’s newest grocery store. The Tie Dyed Pig Diner and Bakery in Radford donated food and containers.

The Wesley Foundation at Radford University provided the use of their kitchen where students and staff prepared and donated all the desserts. Grove UMC’s Community Thanksgiving would not have been what it was without the generous support and donations of these local organizations and businesses working alongside church members.

Clay Carson, a Grove member, has volunteered for the meal for many years. He summed up the efforts of both church and community when he said, “I think this is important because you have so much hunger in this country, and I’m glad to be a part of anything that helps someone get something to eat.”

Even with fewer volunteers, increased restrictions and unanticipated changes, the Community Thanksgiving Meal was successful in being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ on Thanksgiving Day.


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Dana Elise Watson

Dana Elise Watson is administrative assistant at Grove United Methodist Church in Radford, Virginia.