Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 23, 2012

Thankful giving

Union Mission serves hot meals to more than 750 area residents

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Those in need on Thanksgiving did not have to go without as dozens of volunteers dished out turkey with all the trimmings at the Bluefield Union Mission Thursday.

Craig Hammond, executive director of the Bluefield Union Mission, said 759 hot meals were served and 363 family food bags were handed out were fed Thursday during the annual Thanksgiving meal served up by volunteers. By 10 a.m., a line had already formed outside the Bluefield Union Mission of those in need.

“We had about 675 people sign up ahead of time, which is about 200 to 300 families,” Hammond said. “We served about 100 families in Princeton with delivering through the Burke Memorial Baptist Church. They get a hot, traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, and we also give them a grocery bag with food to take home.”

Hammond said the number volunteers who arrived were nearly triple what was expected for this year.

“The wonderful thing is how many people came out to volunteer,” Hammond said. “We had 37 people sign up, but then 93 people showed up. A lot of them have been sorting the items that came in as donations and from our food drives. Our board chairman Lonnie Quesenberry’s middle name is ‘organization,’ and he makes sure everyone gets where they need to be so we can put this together. I just want to give a big thank you to the Matoaka Christian Church and Sacred Heart Catholic Church who brought in extra supplies when we started to run low at the end. ”

 Hammond said Thanksgiving is a holiday that embodies the goal of the Union Mission.

“This is my favorite holiday,” Hammond said. “It’s not as commercialized as so many other holidays. It’s just real simple. You just stop and give thanks.”

In addition to the families receiving food, Hammond said the families of two important figures from the Union Mission’s past were present for the annual Thanksgiving serving. Helen Selby of Bluefield said she tries to come each year to the serving in the memory of her grandfather. Selby is the granddaughter of Arthur Kindgon, a Bluefield lawyer who was one of the founding members of the Union Mission in 1931.

“My mother was here to cook the first time the mission served Thanksgiving, and my grandfather helped found the mission” Selby said. “Most of the time, I come here with my children and my husband. Mainly, I come because my grandfather was such a spearhead for this organization. This is a time of giving. Thanksgiving is a very special day, and people tend to forget that. It is important to me to see the mission’s legacy continued. I try to stay active in it all year. Being here for Thanksgiving is just very heart warming.”

Also present was the family of Rev. Monroe Dodson, the executive director of the Bluefield Union Mission from 1944 until 1966. Fred Dodson, who was the son of the late Rev. Monroe Dodson, said it was a wonderful experience to see his father’s work continued at the mission.

“It’s unbelievable this is still going on,” Fred Dodson said. “It wasn’t as big as this when he started. All of our family is here from Florida, and this is a emotional thing for them to see his work being carried on.”

Karen Whalen said she never knew her grandfather, but she was glad to come in from Jacksonville, Fla. to see Rev. Monroe Dodson’s plague and his memory kept alive in the annual Thanksgiving meal at the mission.

“He died when I was only a year old,” Whalen said. “The stories my parents and aunt told me about him growing up meant a lot. I am very proud to see what God helped him do and continues to help these people do now. It’s amazing to see just the faithfulness of these people who come out here to help year after year.”

Lauren Farley, 26, of Bluefield said she was also making volunteer work at the Union Mission a family affair. Farley came out to help with her husband and 10-year-old stepdaughter.

“It’s our first time here, and it’s just amazing,” Farley said. “It’s a blessing we can do this. We brought my stepdaughter here because we want her to experience giving back to others, sharing with others, and how important it is to respect other people. She’s so excited. It just touches my heart that she’s so sensitive to other people at her age. We don’t want anyone to get left out. We want these families and especially the children to be fed.”

Glen Carwile of Athens, Ala. said this is his third year participating in the annual Thanksgiving dinner.

“Some years ago, I started searching for a mission away from my home,” Carwile said. “I wanted to support something. I made contact with Craig, and he just oozes what this mission is all about. Today is such a blessing for so many need families. It is so important for me to be a small part of something so big, that helps so many people. The people at the Union Mission are wonderful.”

As people continue to move their way through the line Thursday afternoon, they gave their own thanks to the many volunteers dishing out both hot meals and bags of groceries.

“God is so good,” one woman said as she received her bag of food. “May God bless all of you. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.”

— Contact Kate Coil at