SPRING HOUSE -- Bethlehem Baptist Church annually provides Thanksgiving baskets as a community outreach ministry. Started in the early 1970s by the Deacon’s Ministry led by Deacon Phillip Smith, Mitchell Lawrence, Clifton Johnson and Joe Thompson, it focused on the seniors, widows, sick and shut-in members and residents of Penllyn.
They collected non-perishable items from the congregation as well as using benevolence funds to purchase turkeys to complete the Thanksgiving dinner. Starting with 25 boxes, it has grown to what is now around 300 boxes last year for families in Montgomery County and Philadelphia, and includes several social service organizations and schools in Philadelphia.
Beginning in 2006 the organization expanded to include the Deaconess. They collected coupons and individually shopped to purchase the fresh food and produce. As the number of boxes prepared grew, it was streamlined by working directly with vendors for discounts and delivery. The preparing of these boxes has become the highlight of not only the Deacon and the Deaconess ministries, but also the congregation. Nearly a hundred members, across all genders and ages, gladly serve shoulder to shoulder to construct sturdy food containers, load non-perishables, fresh produce and fruit in each box and hand out turkeys to families who either come to the church or have boxes delivered to their homes, because of health or age concerns.
The year 2020 has been different because of the coronavirus and concerns about social distancing. Hefty food boxes were distributed curbside to our regular Food Pantry patrons and some were delivered to those who are sick and shut-in. We are grateful for our longtime partner, Johnson and Johnson, now Janssen, for supporting an effort by donating 45 complete boxed dinners each year in two Philadelphia schools, located in low-income communities. Families registered for inclusion in the program in October. In addition, nearly 200 more turkeys and supermarket gift cards were distributed this year to help families create a nourishing Thanksgiving dinner for their families.
We have now started and are in preparation for our holiday season, by securing toys and gifts to be shared and distributed to Montgomery County and Philadelphia residents.
Input for this article was provided by Deacons Fred Grimes & Vanessa Brown and Deaconess Beverly Goldston & Joi Harris.