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Thanksgiving meal for more than 2,000: St. John churches coming together for unprecedented parish event

LAPLACE — The first annual Community Thanksgiving Celebration, a collaborative effort between 25 St. John the Baptist Parish churches, will feed up to 2,200 people and bless more than 1,000 families with Thanksgiving turkeys.

All are invited to attend the no-cost event from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at the New Wine Christian Center in LaPlace on the East Bank and at West St. John Elementary School in Edgard on the West Bank.

Laurie T. Adams, pastor at Voice of Truth Fellowship Church in LaPlace, said the Thanksgiving Celebration is not a food pick-up, but a sit-down dinner aimed to strengthen community bonds.

Each attendee receives a nourishing plate of barbecue chicken, green beans, dirty rice and dinner rolls, along with soft drinks, water and cake or sweet potato pie for dessert.

Thanksgiving trimmings including stovetop stuffing, cranberry sauce and rolls will be raffled off as door prizes, according to Dr. Tameka Jordan of New Wine Christian Fellowship in LaPlace.

Additionally, 1,000 East Bank families and 100 West Bank families will leave with a Thanksgiving turkey.

Handicap individuals have parking preference, according to Pastor Gary Bolden of New St. John Missionary Baptist Church. Shuttle transportation will be available from overflow parking at Winn-Dixie and the Thomas F. Daley Memorial Park on U.S. 51 on the East Bank.

St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office will facilitate parking and provide security.

While this is the first large-scale celebration between the 25 churches, Pastor Donald August of Rising Star Baptist Church in LaPlace said the Pastor’s Coalition was active during Hurricane Isaac disaster relief in 2012.

“We formed a coalition after Hurricane Katrina and before Hurricane Isaac so the faith community could meet the needs of the community in event of disaster, until government is able to step in and do their part,” August said.

Churches have partnered for other occasions in the years since, but New Wine Christian Center Pastor Neil Bernard recognized there was room left to grow.

The Pastors Coalition regrouped in August to share ideas about a Thanksgiving outreach.

“We have 65 churches in St. John the Baptist Parish, but we are one body of Christ, and we can accomplish more together than we ever could apart,” Bernard said. “There is so much division in the world today. We will be serving these meals in the spirit of unity.”

Bolden and Nick Peppo, pastor of Mission Church of LaPlace, concurred with the sentiment, stating there is no higher purpose than to promote unity and love.

Pastor John Foster of First Assembly of God said it is vital to reach the underprivileged during the holiday season.

“There are a lot of families out there that are hurting, and we can reach out to them in a small way,” Foster said. “Even if it’s only through a hot meal, we can come together and let them know that God loves them.”

Event costs in food alone amount to more than $15,000. Thankfully, numerous community partners have donated supplies and volunteered to split costs, according to Peppo.

For more information, call Peppo at 504-251-6119.

Community partners include: Marathon Petroleum, Bayou Steel, St. John Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre, St. John Parish administration, St. John Parish Assessor, District Attorney Bridget Dinvaut, State Representative Randall Gaines, School Board member Russ Wise, School Board President Ali Burl, Matherne’s Supermarket, Gregg’s Supermarket, Wal-Mart and Pelican Point Carwash.