WHEELING, W.Va. — They came in droves. Hundreds of people, some waiting as long as 18 hours, stood in the chilly morning sun on Main Street in North Wheeling on Saturday morning. Each person’s story was a little different but they were all there for the same reason – to feed their families.
The Rev. Darrell Cummings, with a small army of volunteers, pulled off no easy task Saturday morning when they pulled together food, clothing and other items to feed and clothe the people who showed up for the annual Thanksgiving food basket giveaway at the Bethlehem Apostolic Temple in North Wheeling.
When the last morsel of food was carted away hours later, Cummings said more than 1,000 people including 300 families, were helped. “Not everyone got the same thing, but everyone went home with something, praise, God,” Cummings said.
Eight people at the front of the line had been waiting there since Friday evening, braving the cold while wrapped in blankets and good humor.
One woman said she would have been there earlier, but she had to work late. She, like many waiting in line, are among the working poor who just can’t stretch their food budget from paycheck to paycheck.
As Cummings walked alongside those in line, he said he was thankful the weather was pleasant and that so many people turned out to help. He said this year, his church also collected winter coats to distribute to those in need. Prior to the 11 a.m. start, volunteers unloaded a tractor trailer filled with produce, canned goods, diapers, water, cakes, cookies and much more. Another truck arrived from Riesbeck’s food store. It was filled with turkeys Cummings purchased from the local retailer. Money was tight and the price of turkeys was a concern for Cummings’ limited budget.
“Riesbeck’s has been very good to us. They were able to get us turkeys when others weren’t,” Cummings said. “The price of turkeys did go up this year. We did the best we could with the money we had.”
Prior to handing out the food, Cummings gathered volunteers in a circle of prayer outside. He urged the volunteers to be patient as many of the people had been waiting a long time.
“Anyone who stands in line that long must need it. Be patient. God gave us beautiful weather. We are all blessed,” he offered.
Many of the volunteers return each year to help with the project. Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Swertfeger, several police officers and Ohio County Sheriff’s deputies were among those lending a hand Saturday.
Willis Jennings, a member of Metropolitan Baptist Church, brought three of his young nephews along to help unload the trucks and do some of the heavy lifting. The youngsters were surprised at the number of people who were waiting in line. Jennings said they just wanted to help.
West Virginia Northern Community College President Vicki L. Riley and her husband, Richard McCray, George Couch and Bob Kennen were among those who turned out to help. Volunteers from WesBanco and the local hospitals also were onboard to help.
“We wanted to help meet the need,” Riley said, noting it was her first experience at the church. “The number of people waiting in line is a reflection of the need.”
As the line began to move and families collected their food, smiles broke out. Cummings said he hoped to be able to provide enough food to feed families for several days.
“After all, the best thing about the Thanksgiving meal is the leftovers,” he said.
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