Church answers call to feed hungry

Macedonia Baptist
Church offers aid
throughout county

By joyce blay
Staff Writer

Macedonia Baptist
Church offers aid
throughout county
By joyce blay
Staff Writer

According to legend, when Mohammed would not come to the mountain, the mountain came to him. That accomplishment was impressive, but no less so is that of the Mace-donia Baptist Church Mission on John Street, Lakewood, which not only serves Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless and poor of Lake-wood at the church, but, like Mohammed, its workers take their good works to those who won’t come to them.

"Last year we gave out turkeys with dressing to 4,000 people," said Anita Lockerman, 73, the co-chair of the missionary board.

The mission’s other co-chair is Doris Rozier.

"We take them to the local rooming houses in Lakewood, Howell, Brick, Seaside Heights, Toms River, Manchester and Beckerville, a poor community in Manchester," Lockerman said.

Lockerman, a slim woman whose energy and youthful enthusiasm for her work belie her age, is a whirlwind of activity, shepherding volunteers about their tasks, handing out frozen turkeys and other foods or putting away donations herself. She pauses briefly to explain how the mission’s food pantry began.

"A family came to us years ago, when the Rev. Albert C. Clayton was alive," Lockerman said. "They asked for money to buy a turkey dinner, and that’s how it got started."

Lockerman said the church began to offer sit-down meals, but not everyone was taking advantage of its generosity.

"We found there were people too ashamed to come here for (meals), so we started bringing the dinners to them," she said.

The mission placed a public service announcement on a popular radio station in the area to invite those in need of a hot meal and a sympathetic ear to come down. But they received more than company.

"That also brought out donations of turkeys and the fixings from retirement communities as well as individuals — especially in Toms River," said Lockerman. "But everybody in the area was generous to us."

To demonstrate just how generous the community could be, Lockerman opens a door of a small, but full-stocked storeroom. Its shelves and most of its floor space are filled with canned goods, pasta cartons, soda cans, juice bottles and paper bags containing every component necessary for a complete Thanksgiving dinner — or any other meal.

"The church also provides lunch for the homeless three days a week — Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday," said Lockerman.

Just as important to the mission’s work are its volunteers.

Lockerman introduced one of them before resuming her own work as she and everyone there feverishly prepared for the upcoming holiday.

"Leonard does all our lifting," said Lockerman as she pointed out a thin, sinewy man who beamed across the room in her direction as she mentioned his name. "He’s the first one here in the morning and he puts all the turkeys in the oven and loads them on our truck for distribution later."

Inside the pantry’s spacious kitchen, Margurite Everett, 73, has something to celebrate with those having Thanksgiving dinner there the following week.

"My birthday is Thanksgiving," she said with a grin as she sliced an orange. "That’s where I get my second energy from."

Jean Davis shyly demurs from revealing her age, but she has no hesitation in describing her work at the missionary.

"I stock and bag the pantry food for the entire year," she said. "We do this all year ’round."

Annie McCallum, 61, also stocks and bags the pantry food.

But there are no limits to the tasks that Jessie Marable, 60, said she does for the missionary as she discussed them with the same calm patience she used in washing pans in one of the pantry’s sinks.

"I do anything they need me to do," Marable said.

As she removed one of four trays of fully cooked turkeys from the pantry’s downstairs ovens, Marable said, "We can cook four turkeys at a time down here, but upstairs in the Bell Auditorium there are three ovens where we can cook 12 turkeys at a time. The nursery has two ovens that we are allowed to use, too."

According to Marable, diners are seated in the Bell Auditorium. But when she is asked if there were any special decorations provided there to make the Thanksgiving meal special, Leonard Higgins, 39, interjects to joke, "Yeah, we give them volunteers to serve them," and the room erupts in laughter. Good humor and hard work go hand in hand as the workers share a moment of levity before resuming their tasks.

"Yesterday we were so busy distributing turkeys, you wouldn’t have found a parking spot outside," said Marable.

Being busy is as much a goal for volunteers as it is a result of their efforts to feed the needy, and that suits Betty Evans.

"This keeps me busy and I can help others as well," said Evans, 65, who also said that she does a little bit of everything at the missionary.

Just as versatile is Sharon Raper, 50, a self-described housewife and mother who Lockerman describes as a good cook, too.

"I’m just a worker for the Lord," said Raper modestly. "This is a church where there’s a lot of love and that love is what we put into the work we do here."

It is an opinion seconded by Marable, who added, "We hope that on Thanksgiving there are more people with good jobs and food on their table."

The mission can be reached for further information at (732) 363-9804, (732) 364-6389, or at the main church, which is run by Deacon Jim Savage, at (732) 905-3878.