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‘I feel like this is a blessing’

Manna Church, Fort Bragg collaborate to distribute Thanksgiving meals to soldiers


Army Pvt. 1st Class Jordan Easley pulled up and gladly accepted his free Thanksgiving meal.

Easley, 21, would be eating good on Tuesday.

Inside the twist-tied white plastic bag, 20 or so volunteers from Manna Church had gathered to distribute a packed meal of Tuscan herbed chicken breast, garlic mashed potatoes, buttered sweet corn, seasoned green beans, a yeast roll and gourmet cookies.

The meals came with water, too.

“I feel like this is a blessing,” Easley said from behind the wheel of his vehicle. “Like, some of us are from out of state. A few of us are around like this.”

Once the soldiers received their to-go lunch, they motored on.

The location was Pike Field on Fort Bragg, and Manna Church and Fort Bragg teamed up to provide Thanksgiving meals to soldiers.

Two Brothers Catering of Fayetteville was an important part of this Good Samaritan effort, too, having prepared the food.

Overall, 750 meals had been packaged for pickup starting at 11:30 a.m.

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This is the third year that Manna Church participated in the Thanksgiving meal giveaway on post. The first year, the church doled out 250 meals. A year ago, it ran out of the 500 prepared meals after only 25 minutes, according to Jordan Gill, outreach and missions director for the Fayetteville church.

“This is just an opportunity for our church — Manna Church — to serve those who serve. We have a lot of veterans and active-duty who are part of our church,” Gill said. “So this is especially special for us to bless soldiers here. Many of them, especially the younger soldiers, this may be their first Thanksgiving away from family. So (it’s) for us to give them a sense of fellowship, community and love.”

“This is kind of our way of giving back,” said Kelley McLawhorn, the youngest of the two McLawhorn brothers of Two Brothers Catering. “We enjoy giving back to the community, as well. Being a Christian family, it’s nice to be able to give back to the military and work with the church.”

He and his brother, Brad, both wore their chef’s uniforms in the chilly and damp November air.

“We put a lot of love in it,” Kelley McLawhorn said. “We take a lot of pride in it, especially when we know it’s going out to soldiers.”

Staff Sgt. Mark Thoene, 33, said it meant a lot to him to have people around who appreciate soldiers and veterans.

“Thanksgiving is a time to give back to the community,” he added.

Jenk, who is 53 and retired from the military, said he was going to eat his lunch as soon as he got back to his office.

“This is Manna Church,” he said from his Toyota Tacoma. “What they’re doing is taking care of soldiers and showing their appreciation.”

The church’s Gill said the distribution of the meals is an outreach.

“Outreach is a lifestyle,” he said. “We believe that our church strives to be the best church for our city. And we believe if you got up and left tomorrow and this city did not notice that you were gone, then you’re not having an impact. Fort Bragg is a big part of the Fayetteville community. So, this is an important outreach.”

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com 

Fayetteville, Thanksgiving, Fort Bragg, soldiers