For the third year in a row, the Rev. Jimmy Smiley of Reel For God Outreach Ministries and his wife, Caprice, will provide free Thanksgiving meals at Holy Trinity Church in Greenport.
Everyone is welcome, from the homeless or those without family nearby, to people who will spend the holiday at work, such as hospital employees, police officers and firefighters.
“We’d just like anyone and everyone to know that it’s not based on if you’re rich or poor, its just about love,” the Rev. Smiley said. “We show love to everyone.”
Beginning at 10 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 24, the pastor and his wife, along with dozens of volunteers, will serve any and all donated food they receive, including turkey, ham, stuffing and vegetables. Meals will be served throughout the day.
Volunteers will be released around 4 p.m. so they can spend the day with families, the Rev. Smiley said, adding that he plans to stay until around 6 p.m. to ensure everyone who would like a meal receives one.
“We don’t want anyone to be alone on Thanksgiving,” he said.
The Rev. Smiley said he expects a larger turnout this year than in the past, noting a significant increase from the first year to the second. In 2014, the event drew close to 100 people; last year, it attracted more than 200.
So far, the Rev. Smiley has secured numerous donations from local establishments including CJ’s American Grill in Mattituck, 631 Diner in Southold and Briermere Farms in Riverhead.
“It’s an invitation to let people know that we care about them,” he said of the outreach program, “and to find out how much God cares about them.”
Although it’s only their third year hosting the event in Greenport, the Rev. Smiley and his wife actually began serving free Thanksgiving meals about a decade ago at their church in Coram. After experiencing success there, the couple decided it was time to give back to the North Fork community where they grew up.
“We wanted to do it in the community we have roots in,” Ms. Smiley said. “So we started to do it here locally … God moved us in that direction.”
The night before the event, the Rev. Smiley will ask children from the community to help set up tables and prepare food to be served the next day. Local chefs have also donated their time to help supervise the young volunteers.
In the past, he said, local restaurants including Emilio’s, Lucharitos and Sterlington Deli, all in Greenport, donated food to feed the Wednesday-night volunteers.
Memorably, the Rev. Smiley said, one Mattituck man brought his four young children to help out last year.
“He brought them there that day because he wanted them to see Thanksgiving is about giving back,” he said. “Everything we do is from contributions and people definitely do donate either financially or with their time.”
The event will be hosted at Holy Trinity Church at 768 Main St. in Greenport. Anyone interested in donating food or money, or volunteering, can contact the Rev. Smiley at 631-764-1805.
Courtesy photo: Rev. Jimmy Smiley, left, along with volunteers, preparing food to serve at last year’s Thanksgiving dinner at Hoy Trinity Church in Greenport. This Thanksgiving Day will mark the third year of the event.