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New Jersey church gives away $30K worth of Thanksgiving food: 'A part of our DNA'

Volunteers at The Life Christian Church in West Orange, New Jersey compile food baskets for families in need ahead of Thanksgiving 2023.
Volunteers at The Life Christian Church in West Orange, New Jersey compile food baskets for families in need ahead of Thanksgiving 2023. | The Life Christian Church

A New Jersey church gave away more than $30,000 worth of Thanksgiving food, continuing a tradition it has partaken in for nearly two decades. 

In a statement shared with The Christian Post, The Life Christian Church in West Orange announced that it had compiled and distributed 250 food baskets for community members needing assistance.

A team of 60 volunteers assembled the food baskets, which contained a combined total of $30,000 worth of groceries, the week before Thanksgiving. 

A flyer posted on the church’s website invited members of the congregation to donate items such as potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing mix, biscuits and other Thanksgiving staples to the food basket drive before Nov. 15. Members also had the option to make monetary donations for the effort. 

In a message posted to Facebook last week, the church indicated that it had extended the deadline to drop off items for placement in Thanksgiving food baskets to Nov. 17. 

In addition to containing traditional dishes associated with a Thanksgiving meal, the baskets included supplemental groceries to provide families with an additional week’s worth of food.

This year’s effort to provide Thanksgiving dinners to community members in need marks the 16th year in a row the church of nearly 3,000 people has embarked on such an endeavor. 

“Part of our mission at TLCC is to spread God’s love in ever-widening circles,” said The Life Christian Church Lead Pastor Terry Smith. “We could view our church as just a place of worship where people come to experience God’s love, but we encourage our congregants to go out into the community to share and serve others.”

Smith identified the food basket drive as “one major time-specific initiative of TLCC” while stressing that “we also have teams regularly serving in different capacities throughout the year.” He described service projects like the Thanksgiving collection as “a part of our church’s DNA.” 

Smith elaborated on the philosophy of his multi-campus megachurch in a previous interview with The Christian Post, which took place as the Paramus campus of The Life Christian Church was assembling more than 1,000 food kits ahead of Christmas 2019.

The pastor told CP that the charitable endeavor aligned nicely with one of the church’s core values, which is to be “enthusiastic servants of all.”

“We see community service as a foundational part of being a follower of Jesus,” he said. “We want the Life Christian Church Paramus campus to be known for spreading His love across Bergen [County] and helping families in need is a part of that.” 

Smith recalled how his congregation loved “being able to see our people put their faith into action” by participating in the Christmas food-packing event. He expressed hope that “all of the families in Paramus who participated experience how easy it is to serve our neighbors, especially during the peak season of need.”  

Four years later, the Thanksgiving basket compilation presents the latest opportunity for members of The Life Christian Church to serve their neighbors.

One beneficiary of the Thanksgiving basket drive told The Life Christian Church that the food package arrived after she “recently realized” that she did not have any money to feed her grandchildren a Thanksgiving dinner. She noted that before receiving the food basket, she only had “a box of pancakes” in her possession. 

The Life Christian Church is not the only congregation in the United States that sought to provide Thanksgiving dinners to members of the community.

Last week, Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, served meals to more than 1,000 people at a drive-through event. Like The Life Christian Church, Lawndale Baptist Church has engaged in its annual Thanksgiving ministry for nearly two decades. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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