Lee County shows up and shows out


OPELIKA — Local coffee enthuasist and expert Sarah Gill, founder and owner of Mama Mocha’s Coffee Roastery, along with Hannah Parker, co-founder of nonprofit Project 153, organized a Thanksgiving event last week to feed those in the community that experience food insecurity.
Gill discussed why she and Parker wanted to host this event.
“Hannah and I have always sought ways to serve people in our whole friendship … We are best friends and find ways to love on people [and] collaborate our efforts and be more effective,” Gill said. “Hannah loves to feed people. She has a heart to serve and give freely, and she was the one who dreamt this one up, and I jumped on board.”
Gill said that when she and Parker were first planning the event, they had no idea what to expect.
“We were truly unsure if anyone would come,” she said. “We knew we had the girls ranch coming, we knew we had reached out to our homeless friends around downtown, we knew we had personally reached out to some single mamas.”
What started out as a simple, heart-warming, belly-filling idea turned into something unforgettable.
“We were blessed going into the event planning to hopefully feed anywhere from 100 to150 people,” Parker wrote in a post on social media. “We had some amazing people literally take off to stores and grab whatever they could to bring it back.”
At the end of the event, approximately 500 people had been served meals that day.
“We ran out of plates before we even started at 11,” Gill said. “When we ran out of food, people just left to go get more. It gives me chills to think about it. I remember I kept thinking about the fish and loaves story in the Bible. It really felt like a miracle that day.”
Gill said that she cannot take credit for the event; it was Parker’s idea and that she just jumped in to help.
“Mama Mochas was just a space for this, but I truly did or spent very little,” Gill said. “The community, the volunteers, Hannah and Jeff Parker literally bought out both the Piggly Wiggly and Winn Dixie delis. Volunteers were running plates to people in cars to alleviate parking issues; volunteers were running plates of food to elderly and folks without transportation or caregivers unable to leave their home. It was like whatever gift someone naturally had, they were able to use it to volunteer in a way that was helpful and specific to that need being filled.”
Gill and Parker both expressed that the love of God was a part of this event.
“The Lord made some loving community happen in Opelika that day and I will treasure those memories forever,” Gill said.
“Over 500 plates … God took it, and he multiplied,” Parker wrote.
Gill also said that they are already thinking of ways to do it again next year.
This year, Harvest Evangelism hosted its annual Thanksgiving event feeding more than 4,000 people.
“I work all over the world with poor and needy people and I’m glad that I do,” said Rick Hagans, founder of Harvest Evangelism.
The Thanksgiving event was born from Hagans’ desire to meet a need that he saw in the area. Along with a college buddy of his, Greg Glynn, they prepared five boxes of Thanksgiving food and decided to drive around delivering them.
“In Auburn and Opelika, if you are impoverished food-wise, you’re also impoverished transportation-wise,” Hagans said. “You could have a gourmet meal somewhere but if the people can’t get there, it doesn’t do any good.”
Those first few meals were the beginning of a 30-plus year tradition.
Harvest Evangelism includes His Place and Hosanna Home.
The Thanksgiving event has continued each year, even as ministries have changed.
From that first year with five meals, the second year with 20, and the third with 100, the event has grown. Last year it was 2,700 meals.
By the third year, 100 people were showing up to volunteer on Thanksgiving morning, too, Hagans said.
“My volunteers say, ‘We live for this one day a year,'” he said. “Thanksgiving would not be Thanksgiving without this opportunity.’”
Eventually, the event had to be held under a large circus tent, it was so well-attended. There are two meals, actually, on Wednesday evening — which is a sit down meal — and Thanksgiving Day.
Hagans recently bought a food trailer, too, which helps with food distribution and opportunities.
Harvest Evangelism also serves meals to the local jails in Chambers, Lee, Macon, Russell and Tallapoosa Counties.
According to Hagans, they also served two nursing homes this year.
“We took over 2,000 meals out into some of our community’s neediest neighborhoods,” Hagans wrote. “Several hundred people came by to pick up meals at our big tent site, and we took several hundred meals directly to people who called us and said they were in need of a meal. We took meals to the ER, orthopedic,cardiac and the ICU [departments].”
Hagans took to social media to express his thanks and gratitude.
“Giving thanks is a powerful thing. Giving thanks is good medicine. Thanks to everyone who made this Thanksgiving something special.”

The Nourish Foundation fed 25 families on Thanksgiving, delivering gift cards for turkeys and hams along with seasonal produce boxes to ensure that participants had provisions for the holiday.
Started in November 2016 by Beth Hornsby and Dr. Katie Wolter, the Nourish Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the well-being of people living in Alabama through two branches: Nourish Wellness and Nourish, AL. Nourish Wellness is a pediatric wellness center, offering comprehensive care to individuals recovering from lifestyle-related illnesses, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Nourish, AL focuses on addressing hunger by supplying fresh produce, clothing and essential items to families facing food insecurity within the local community.