18 ALMS HOUSEForgive Grilley Mitchell if he’s been preoccupied the last few weeks. He’s preparing to have several friends over for Thanksgiving dinner again, as many as 60 or 70 to be exact.

This will make the 10th year that Mitchell, program coordinator at the ALMS HOUSE in Hope Mills, has helped coordinate the annual free Thanksgiving dinner for the town’s underprivileged. It’s held each year on Thanksgiving Day at the ALMS HOUSE building on Ellison Street downtown near the historic Trade Street district.

Mitchell, who is retired from the military, is a native of Vidalia, Georgia, and has called Hope Mills home since moving there in 2004. He first got involved in activities at the ALMS HOUSE in 2009.

Mitchell said he usually tries to start getting things organized for the big meal the first of November, but he’s a little behind this year because of his involvement in the recent Hope Mills municipal election.

The biggest challenge, as always, is collecting all the food that will be needed for the big event, and Mitchell and the volunteers at the ALMS HOUSE cut no corners when it comes to providing everything that’s part of the Thanksgiving eating tradition.

The tentative menu for this year includes turkey, ham, dressing or stuffing, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, green beans or greens, sweet potatoes or yams, gravy, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls and assorted desserts and beverages.

The food is provided by ALMS HOUSE volunteers and people in the community who step up to help out.

ALMS HOUSE stands for Associated Local Ministries in Service, Helping Others in Unfortunate Situations and Experiences.The mission of the ALMS HOUSE is to assist with utilities, medicine, food, clothing, household items, school supplies and Bibles.

The ALMS HOUSE regularly provides free lunches to the underprivileged of the Hope Mills area and makes every effort to avoid turning anyone away.

Some people bring the food unprepared to the ALMS HOUSE building, but Mitchell encourages them to wait the day of the luncheon and bring it already cooked and ready to serve around 11 a.m. The luncheon begins at noon.

If people want to donate uncooked turkey or ham, Mitchell tries to get them to stop by on Monday or Tuesday the week of Thanksgiving so he can find someone to cook and prepare them in time for the big meal.

This year, to avoid excess and duplication, Mitchell sent out a list to a number of people in the community specifying amounts of many of the items to insure there will be enough to handle the expected crowd.

Mitchell said there has been a recent influx of entire families who have taken part of the services offered by the ALMS HOUSE.

In some cases, he said, families with as many as six to nine members have come by for help.

Based on attendance at meals served during at the ALMS HOUSE during the summer months, Mitchell is anticipating a crowd of anywhere from 60 to 70 this year. At past Thanksgiving lunches the numbers have come closer to 100.

The biggest problem for some of the folks who need to take advantage of the free meal is getting there. The ALMS HOUSE is unable to provide transportation or deliver the food, so the folks who want to come to the Thanksgiving lunch have to find a way to get to the Ellison Street location in order to eat.

“We’re seeing a lot of new faces we haven’t seen,’’ Mitchell said of the people coming to the ALMS HOUSE. “You have your homeless populations and they are transient. They tend to move around.’’

Mitchell said food will be served until they run out on Thanksgiving Day, but normally they are usually finished and packed up before 2 p.m.

There is often food left after the luncheon. Unprepared nonperishable food can be saved for Christmas, Mitchell said.

In past years, when the ALMS HOUSE had too much prepared food on hand, Mitchell and the volunteers delivered the excess to the Salvation Army in Fayetteville.

He’s hopeful the specific requests he’s made regarding the amount of food needed this year will help avoid to many leftovers.

“It’s the love and the compassion of the community coming together,’’ Mitchell said of the event. “We feed anyone that comes in. We don’t discriminate. If you’re hungry, we’ll feed you. We do it out of love.’’

For any questions about the Thanksgiving meal or other events at ALMS HOUSE call 910-425-0902.

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