The Bartlett Yancey High School cafeteria was nearly full this past Thursday but not with high school students.
Instead, roughly 100 volunteers from the County Outreach Program, Caswell Gideons, the Caswell Ministerial Alliance and regular community members gathered inside BY’s cafeteria to give back to the community that has treated them so well over the years.
There was plenty of giving and receiving as volunteers exchanged introductions, a few kind words, a few hugs and food with Caswell residents in need during the annual Thanksgiving Day Feast.
Gary Williams, pastor of Sassafras Grove Baptist Church located in Pelham, was one of the volunteers on hand for Thursday’s event, was thrilled to see community members give the most precious commodity of all: their time.
“It feels great because when people give their time, that’s something special to me,” Williams said. “We live in a day and time now where people are more reluctant to give you their time. They would be more apt to give a donation, more apt to put something financial or tangible in your hand but time is such a precious commodity and nobody wants to forfeit it so we’re grateful when people can give you just a little bit of their time.”
“When people tend to give of themselves, that’s special to me because anyone can reach into their wallet or write a check.”
For Williams, people being so willing to give their time during the holidays shows Caswell’s rich, community spirit.
“I think what you see now is the diversity in the different faces, these different colors of people giving of themselves, their time, where they are able to look somebody in the face and say, ‘this person has come out who perhaps didn’t have any food or didn’t have anything,’ and people will never forget when you give to them.”
Along with its giving spirit, Caswell is also a place of deep religious faith and there were plenty of people in attendance Thursday more than willing to live up to the word they’ve received their whole lives.
“The Bible is clear when Jesus himself said, ‘Come be blessed of my father for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, you gave me drink. I was sick and you visited me,’” Williams recalled. “Jesus was basically saying that and his people were asking, ‘when did that happen? When did I do that for you? And he said, ‘when you did that for my little ones, when you did that for somebody else, you made it possible because you did it to me and that’s what we see today.”
The event was not only a way for people to give back but to also come together and put aside the superficial differences we let divide us, providing a beacon of light many can follow.
“In these terrible, terrible times, we find ourselves where people are at odds with each other, people are in discord and disarray and for one day, we see they’re rolling up their sleeves and forgetting about party lines, forgetting about politics,” Williams said. “They’re forgetting about the things that keep us separated and don’t really mean anything.”
“They are uniting and giving back so we can enrich a place we call Caswell County.”
Life is full of mountains and valleys, peaks and plateaus. Many times, people often experience both in the same year or even in the matter of a few months and weeks. For those in attendance during Thursday’s event that found themselves in the valley or plateau, the love and compassion shown to them by volunteers will hopefully not be lost once they are back on their feet.
“During the course of one’s life as things get better and turn for the better and you can remember back on the day when there was a time you were on the receiving end, it will encourage you to help somebody else when you see that they’re struggling,” Williams said. “Hopefully you’ll look back on that time and it will encourage you to extend a helping hand to that person or someone else that’s struggling.”
Williams was also encouraged to see so many people make the trip and take time away from their families on Thanksgiving to serve others.
“I tell you, it’s so overwhelming to see,” Williams said. “I live in Burlington and I drive up and drive up. To this place with the hope of what we’ll find is what we see today. The hope that the singing will be felt, that the priests’ words will be felt, that these serves who smile as they give food to these people will feel the heart. The sincerity. Of the heart is where someone can look and tell. They can look and tell whether you want to be here or not.”
“But it means so much we could be on the giving end of this event because we could very easily be the ones with the plate out and holding it and having someone put a piece of turkey on it.”
Traditional Thanksgiving food such as turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce were all on the menu and provided those in need with physical nourishment. However, that doesn’t mean that’s the only nourishment they received.
All in attendance enjoyed having a moment to come together in fellowship and catch up on old times. In addition, county Gideon members were also in attendance, passing out the word of God in the form of New Testament Bibles.
“The emphasis is not only feeding the people with physical food, but also feeding them spiritually with God’s word,” said Gideons member James Baldwin. “We know from many testimonies that God does. Not return void but it accomplishes what it sets forth, what he sets forth about his word. This is a great opportunity for us to distribute God’s word and talk to people about God’s son, Jesus Christ, and him shedding blood on the cross. We know from experience that it changes lives because it changed our lives.”
Fellow Gideons member R.G. Crumpton added, “The food is what draws them here but we try to take advantage of that by handing out Bibles and getting the word out and hopefully touching some people’s lives. You give them the word and it can change their heart and make them a better person.”