Second annual event to provide Thanksgiving meals to seniors, community members in need

NILES — Holiday gatherings may be smaller this year due to COVID-19 pandemic orders, but for those in need, the Wortham family will continue to serve a warm meal.

For the second time, the family through their organization JKLA Ministries, will host their annual Feed the Family Thanksgiving Dinner offering. Instead of hosting the traditional Thanksgiving meal inside of Niles High School’s cafeteria as they did last year, the dinners will be packaged as needed to-go for a drive-thru pickup in the parking lot.

This year, the drive-thru set up will be in the parking lot of Niles High School, located at 1441 Eagle St. in Niles. The school is not affiliated, but is providing the venue for them to set up. Event organizer Lawana Wortham works as a security guard at the school, while her husband, Mark, is vice president of the Niles Community School Board.

The pickup will be between noon and 3 p.m. on Nov. 26. Wortham said she and her family, and those volunteering, will have the food kept hot in chafing dishes. Each car may pull up and request meals for pickup, and the volunteers will assemble them as they pull through, providing a hot Thanksgiving meal ready to eat.

Wortham said she initially was not sure if the family was going to continue with the offering in its second year.

“I prayed about what I needed to do,” she said. “The drive-thru idea came up when I thought about our schools having meals over the summer, configured as drive-thrus.”

The first year of the free Thanksgiving dinners, Wortham said her family served 93 people. They had made much more food than that, and were able to donate the leftovers following the event to Hope Rescue Mission, which served 150 people from what was prepared by the Wortham family.

After hearing the food went to serve even more in the neighboring community, Wortham was set on serving a meal to those who might not otherwise have one each year.

“I looked at my husband and said ‘we are going to do this every year,’” she said. “We have Christmas to ourselves. We have Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. I think we have all of these days to ourselves, let’s take a holiday and give back to a community that has been good to us.”

Another thing Wortham appreciated was the community support the event garnered. Not only was she able to spend time with her family serving the community, before they celebrated together, others in the area supported their efforts as well.

“People just wanted to be a part of it. I was so grateful for that,” she said. “If it wasn’t for that, it’s that we have any amount of money. We were going to do what we could. I thank God that he laid it upon the community’s heart to just come, donate and be a part of it.”

She said the family is looking for support again this year.

“This COVID-19 thing has a lot of people really going through [difficult times], and we need something that is uplifting to bring joy to peoples’ hearts,” she said.

Wortham said all are welcome at the event, and she has volunteers ready to be able to deliver meals to senior citizens who may not otherwise be able to obtain a warm meal with family or in the drive-thru itself.

“We know a lot of [seniors], because of COVID-19, might not be going to see family this year,” Wortham said. “People won’t be gathering like we are used to.”

Community members interested in volunteering, donating to the meal, or those who would like to place a request for a senior meal delivery may contact Wortham at (248) 906-8834.

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