wcci thanksgiving volunteers 1The spirit of giving around Atlanta kicked off well before the last Thursday of November this year. Churches, nonprofits, politicians and even Atlanta’s football players got involved to provide meals and assistance to those in need on the Thanksgiving holiday and in the days leading up to it.

For the fifth straight year, 3,000 families around the Atlanta area received Thanksgiving dinner boxes from World Changers Church International (WCCI) on Saturday. Church members and volunteers handed out Thanksgiving boxes to local families, with each box containing all of the ingredients for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, including a turkey.

The distribution began at 11:00 a.m., and volunteers arrived as early as 8:30 a.m. Event organizers said recipients began forming a line at the church nearly three hours before the start of the event.

World Changers is best known for being the original church home of Pastor Creflo Dollar, who rose to prominence for his teachings of prosperity theology.

“One of the best ways to express gratitude to God for what He has done for us is to serve others,” said Dollar, lead pastor and founder of the Church. “We commend the hundreds of volunteers and those who supported this ministry financially to make it possible for us to serve 3,000 families who need our help this Thanksgiving season.”

The church, located in College Park, also sent buses into underserved communities to pick up local families in need of transportation.

“Providing a Thanksgiving dinner is just one more way to be Jesus within our community,” said Dollar. “It’s a tangible expression of His love to others who need hope at this season and throughout their lives.”

The following day more than a thousand people were treated to a meal by the Atlanta Berean Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which served up its annual Thanksgiving lunch. The church also provided free health screenings, clothes and even haircuts to those who showed up for the meal.

During the week of Thanksgiving, football players around Atlanta also got into the spirit. Members of the Atlanta Falcons took to the Shepherd’s Inn, the men’s facility of the Atlanta Mission, to provide catered Thanksgiving meals to 100 men from the shelter. Guard Justin Blalock, defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi and defensive tackle Corey Peters all participated in the event, which took place on Monday.

Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux used the week to help out in a different way.

“For Thanksgiving, instead of the usual turkey events, I’m hosting a ‘Thanksgiving Diaper Drive’ for homeless babies who live at Genesis Shelter,” Babineaux said on his Facebook page.

The ninth year lineman hosted the first diaper drive for homeless newborns and toddlers at the Atlanta shelter dedicated to helping homeless newborns and babies under six months and their families.

Retired athletes also got in on the giving. District 2 Councilman Kwanza Hall joined members of the Atlanta Chapter of the National Football League’s Former Players Association Tuesday for a donation of Thanksgiving turkeys to the families of the Henderson Place Apartments in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Landmark District.

“I am enormously grateful to these accomplished sportsmen for their generosity,” said Hall. “The holidays are an especially tough time for families of the Boulevard corridor. The Atlanta chapter’s donation to the families of Henderson Place, who live just two blocks from the birth home of Martin Luther King, Jr., reminds the families that they are not alone and that we are all in this together.”

On Wednesday Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed hosts his fourth annual turkey giveaway by distributing 700 turkeys to Atlanta families. The giveaway happens at the Adamsville Recreation Center in partnership with Councilman C.T. Martin and rapper/actor T.I., Atlanta native. This year’s giveaway focuses on grandparents who are raising grandchildren.

But perhaps Atlanta’s largest and most well-known holiday food giveaway is the Thanksgiving dinner held by Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless (HFTHH) on Thanksgiving Day. The 2013 dinner marks the 44th year the group has held the event for members of the Atlanta community. Representatives for Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless say their goal is to feed “at least 10,000 people who would otherwise go without a meal this season.”

The organization has also expanded its offerings this year to include medical care, clothing, hot showers and barber and beautician services at the event as well as job training through a partnership with the Georgia Department of Labor.

“The needs of the people pushed us in that direction,” said HFTHH President Elizabeth Omilami of the added services. “It used to be just about making sure that people got a thanksgiving feast like everybody else can get, but now it’s about so much more.”

The group will also be looking for donations to its building fund at the event. The organization started by the late Rev. Hosea L. Williams has been in the same building for 20 years, according to Omilami, and is now “falling down around us.” She says the group is looking for architects, builders and construction companies to help. Without that, she says, Hosea Feed the Hungry may be forced to close.

But for this year, Omilami says dinner will be served from 10:00am until 3:00pm at the Georgia World Congress Center.

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