GAINESVILLE - What started as a simple challenge from a pastor three years ago has turned into a Thanksgiving meal for nearly 1,000 people in Gainesville this year.
"Rose and Eugene Moon were at church one day and their pastor challenged everyone in church to do something radical for Jesus," said Troy Phillips, one of the coordinators of the Community Thanksgiving sponsored by Project JOY (Jesus, Ours & Yours).
Phillips said Rose Moon had an idea to serve a Thanksgiving meal to some friends who might be alone at the holiday, recalled Phillips. Initially, it looked as though the Moons would be providing food for about 30 people, but after about a week the number grew to 100.
Phillips said that's when the Moons recruited him and his wife Heather, along with Jason and Russell Gee, to assist.
"Before we knew it, we were feeding...about 350 people and then we sent out about another 100 to-go boxes to people in the community," said Phillips.
This year he anticipates close to 700 people may come to the Masonic Lodge on Dawsonville Highway at Lakeshore Drive to eat. Plus, he said Project JOY is working with Meals on Wheels this year to deliver 200 meals.
A good portion of the bill for the food comes from the original organizers of the event, but Phillips said area businesses and other individuals have made donations as the numbers have grown.
So who attends this Thanksgiving lunch?
"It's for the community...anyone in the community. We invite everyone in the community to come and eat," said Phillips.
He said everyone from church groups to those who are alone for the Thanksgiving holiday to his own family take part.
"It's nothing more than dinner and fellowship."
Phillips said they have learned a few lessons over the last couple of years. For one thing, they've simplified the menu.
"Turkey, dressing, gravy, green beans, sweet potatoes, rolls and desserts."
Phillips said Project JOY volunteers will start delivering plates to homebound residents in the area around 11:00 a.m. Thursday.
The meal for those who want to eat in begins at noon and runs until 2:00 p.m. Thursday.