Thanksgiving arrived on a weekend for Melanie Nelson this year.
Nelson and her special needs son Marc Garrod sat down to a turkey dinner with all the fixings Saturday afternoon inside Myrtle Beach High School’s cafeteria.
“I’m a single parent,” Nelson said. “Every little bit helps.”
The meal came courtesy of a group of churches and nonprofits that decided a month ago to host a series of dinners for Horry County families in need. They reached out to local schools, senior centers and public housing for diners.
For the food, they turned to businesses and restaurants. The group amassed 30 turkeys, 25 hams, chicken for frying, and plenty of stuffing, yams and cranberry sauce.
The Rev. Tim McCray, who helped organize “Feed the Families,” said church members chipped in, too. The matriarchs of congregations prepared their finest pound cakes, cookies and pies, which were laid out on tables at high schools in Myrtle Beach, Socastee and St. James. The plan was to feed 300 people at each location.
“That’s the purpose: to give a Thanksgiving meal to those who might not even have one, especially a hot meal,” McCray said. “This is our goal: reaching out to them and really loving on them.”
The Shelley family of Myrtle Beach felt that kindness Saturday.
When asked what brought her the dinner, Tabitha Shelley said she wanted her 10-year-old daughter Teaira to experience this compassion.
“To show the little ones,” she said, “there are people out there that care for them.”
Lamar Vereen, a 16-year-old student at the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology, has been talking about the dinner for weeks.
He’s part of the Joshua Academy, a local program that provides mentors for at-risk youth. McCray runs the academy, which helped sponsor “Feed the Families.”
“He’s made an impact on some of us,” Vereen said.
Dinners like this one, the teen said, are needed because they encourage families to attend.
“It’s important for people to get together,” he said.
McCray said the group fed more than 1,000 Saturday. Next year, volunteers hope to expand to Conway and North Myrtle Beach.
“It’s the first one, but we’re committed to hopefully annually doing this,” he said. “Not only that, but we’re looking to do a lot of outreach and partnerships with some of these families in this community that definitely need it.”