5th annual Thanksgiving Celebration to serve 1,500

Published 7:20 am Wednesday, November 9, 2022

LAPLACE — One of the greatest displays of unity in the community is the St. John Parish Pastors Coalition’s Thanksgiving Celebration, an annual event that brings faith-based leaders and the local business community together to bless families in need.

On Sunday, November 20, approximately 1,500 individuals will be treated to grilled chicken, dirty rice, vegetables, baked bread, desserts and refreshments in a sit-down style dinner at New Wine Christian Fellowship in LaPlace. No vouchers are required to attend, and everyone in the community is invited.

Doors open at 5 p.m., one hour before dinner is served at 6 p.m. By the time the event ends at 7:30, families will receive food boxes containing everything from fresh produce to meat needed to prepare a hearty Thanksgiving dinner at home.

The evening will also feature drawings for free furniture giveaways, according to Pastor Neil Bernard.

“A lot of families are struggling and having a difficult time in addition to dealing with the current challenges of our economy. Due to Hurricane Ida, a lot of people are still struggling to get their homes repaired,” Bernard said. “One of the things we want to do this year to encourage those families is not only give them food baskets and serve them a meal, but also have a furniture and household goods giveaway.”

Bernard said roughly 100 pieces of new furniture were donated by relief organization Eight Days of Hope in partnership with Thomasville Furniture. This past spring, Eight Days of Hope sent 1,400 volunteers from around the country to LaPlace to assist in the rebuilding of more than 130 homes in the community.

Each family will receive a ticket for the furniture drawing upon walking in the door. According to Bernard, another new addition to the fifth annual Thanksgiving Celebration will be a visit from Pastor Fred Luter of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans to share words of encouragement.

“We thought it would be wonderful that we not only serve people’s physical needs, but encourage their spirit and emotional needs as well,” Bernard said. “Our goal is to serve the neediest families in our community. For the last two years, it was a drive-thru format due to the pandemic, but this year, we are happy to invite everyone in to sit down together for a meal.”

Sponsors of the Community-Wide Thanksgiving Celebration include but are not limited to Marathon, Denka, the District Attorney’s Office, the Assessor’s Office, the Sheriff’s Office and Parish President Jaclyn Hotard’s Office. Another sponsor, Pelican Pointe Carwash, will be providing free carwashes to many families in the community.

Those who would like to volunteer during this event are encouraged to park off-site at East St. John Preparatory Academy so the parking lot may be reserved for guests. Volunteers should plan to arrive by 4:30 p.m.

The return of the sit-down dinner is one sign of the community’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida. The St. John Pastors Coalition, comprised of 22 local church leaders, is continuing to coordinate relief efforts through the St. John Long-Term Recovery Group that was activated in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

“As of today, volunteers have worked on close to 400 homes in the community. We started with 858 requests for assistance, and we are now down to about 338,” Bernard said. “Over the last year, 4,000 volunteers have home from all over the United States. I think the Thanksgiving Celebration has grown largely due to the support of the pastors who have worked together since Hurricane Ida. Disasters have a way of bringing people together, and we’ve seen a lot of unity, not just from pastors, but from groups like United Way and from our parish officials.”

Bernard is thankful for all the support that has come from beyond St. John Parish, including the Minute Knights construction crews returning to St. John Parish November 28 through March, as well as the All Hands and Hearts construction team that is currently stationed at Lifehouse Church in Reserve, working to repair homes day after day on their own dime.

For more information, visit stjohnrecovery.com.