Sharing vision and bounty at Bel Air church

1,000 people are expected at Thanksgiving dinner

November 23, 2003|By Amanda Angel | Amanda Angel,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Mark Nolan was sitting in his office, going over the plans for the Thanksgiving dinner that New Hope Baptist Church will serve, when two faces peered into the room.

Sister Kay and Sister Wood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told Nolan that they had heard of the Thanksgiving dinner Nolan hopes will feed 1,000 people, and they offered to volunteer.

Nolan, who had been going over the logistics of the all-day event called Sharing the Vision, beamed at the two women.

"I'm so excited," Sister Wood said.

"I'm so excited, too," Nolan replied.

Nolan's church is fine-tuning the details of a traditional Thanksgiving feast - from the refrigerated van needed to store food to the schedule of people in charge of taking out the trash.

Since Nolan became pastor of the church at 116 Alice Ann St. seven years ago, the congregation has prepared Thanksgiving baskets through organizations such as Neighbors in Need, Nolan said.

In August, Nolan received his annual letter from Neighbors in Need asking how many families the church would adopt for Thanksgiving, but he wanted to provide a better feast for more people. Instead of sending out baskets, Nolan wanted to invite people to come to the church, where they could find all the traditional Thanksgiving fixings in a social setting.

"This year, it was a burden placed on my heart to do something for the county. I really had no real intention to do something like this, but trying to do something of this magnitude is breathtaking," Nolan said.

Nolan invites those who are hungry, lonely - or who don't feel like cooking - to come to the church for a free dinner. He stresses that meeting new people is as important an objective as is feeding the needy.

Nolan said he has about 70 volunteers - mostly from his congregation - willing to help.

He also said the church has received about $5,000 in donations to help buy 55 turkey breasts, rent vans and purchase other supplies.

The church has been accepting reservations for the dinner. Nolan said he had received only three as of Thursday afternoon.

He also encourages people to call to request transportation; the church has four vans to shuttle people in Harford County and bring food to those who are unable or unwilling to leave their homes.

"We are not going to turn anyone down," Nolan said, but he does recommend that people call in advance so they do not have to wait for a seat at a table or for a plate of turkey at home.

Nolan hopes that this Thanksgiving dinner will become a regular event. "We will assess that after it's over. Who knows, maybe it will become an annual or monthly thing on a smaller scale," he said.

The dinner will start at noon. For reservations or a ride: 410-838-9019.

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