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Giving thanks for ‘Bags of Hope’

As 125 families sit down at their table today, no doubt their prayers of thanks include one for the members of the Irondale Assembly of God Church.

Early Saturday morning, the church provided frozen turkeys and a box of ingredients for the rest of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner to families in Washington, Iron and St. Francois counties.

“Bags of Hope” began at 8 a.m., but the first people arrived about 5:30 a.m., said Brenda Fatchett.

While they waited, recipients enjoyed coffee, hot chocolate and doughnuts supplied by the church members and listened to the live music of John Hartley.

Downstairs, the dinner ingredients were ready in boxes donated by a church couple and the Gilster Mary Lee’s McBride plant. Volunteers piled frozen turkeys in the backs of two pickup trucks in the parking lot.

At 8 a.m., Pastor Roy Adams sent people downstairs in groups of five to get their meals.

“This means a lot,” said a woman as she put her turkey and  box in the trunk of her car. “We can now have Thanksgiving dinner.”

Fifteen people are enjoying dinner at her house today.

The church of about 60 members held its first Thanksgiving dinner project last year.

“Our minister has a ‘heart’ for people,” Fatchett said. “The economy was so bad, we thought it would help people to have a good Thanksgiving for an easier transition to the holidays.”

The church advertises through word of mouth, fliers in post office boxes and local newspapers, but they don’t require registration. Without any idea of the number of the people who would respond that first year, the church prepared 103 boxes and turkeys.

Amazingly, that was exactly the number of families that showed up.

“It’s a God thing,” Fatchett said. “It was the neatest thing I ever saw. It gave me goosebumps!”

For several months before the event, church members collected items for the dinner. In October, they made a cloth turkey for people to fill with cash donations to buy the frozen turkeys.

This year, the congregation advertised that they had food for 100 families, but made 20 extra just in case. Four of the meals were designated for hospice  patients.

Within the first hour-and-a-half, 100 families received dinners. When five additional families turned up after the 120 were distributed, they weren’t turned away. Instead, the church bought turkeys for them, as well.

Recipients signed cards, which Adams uses to send thank you letters, invites them to church and offers help if it’s needed.

“The Bible says we are to serve man as Jesus did,” Adams said. “These people are helping us to do that.”

Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at

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