The last time Bill Wakefield wanted to give away frozen turkeys to people in need, he hired a refrigerated truck to bring them to the parking lot of his store on Quintard Avenue.
On Saturday, he brought them in the back of a pickup.
“Just feel those things,” he said. “They aren’t thawing out. We won’t have them long enough for that.”
Wakefield and about two dozen volunteers for Victory Headquarters Christian Center in Anniston gathered in the parking lot of the Wakefield's clothing store on Quintard to begin distributing the makings of 200 Thanksgiving dinners — each consisting of a frozen turkey, a loaf of bread and a can of green beans — to people around the city who are having trouble making ends meet.
It’s a charity effort born out of the pandemic. In April, after laying off some of his employees during the pandemic shutdown, Wakefield bought 150 turkeys and other Easter dinner fixings, set aside some for his furloughed workers and gave the rest to Victory Headquarters to distribute to others who were struggling through the COVID-caused economic downturn.
Seven months later, coronavirus is spreading faster than it ever has, according to numbers from the Alabama Department of Public Health — but some things have gotten better. Unemployment dropped below the double digits months ago. Wakefield says sales at his store have recovered.
Things that were awkward for the crowd of volunteers in April — like wearing masks and avoiding handshakes — are now second nature. Victory’s pastor, Charles Gregory, said volunteers will go to the city’s public housing communities to distribute the meals.
“We’re trying to go to some areas where people might not be able to get out to get it,” Gregory said. “Want we’re going to prearrange with some of them to come to the church and get it.”
Gregory and Wakefield said volunteers would distribute “a word and a bird” — the “word” being Psalm 107:1. “O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good,” the verse reads. “For His mercy endureth forever.”
In April, Gregory and the volunteers invited people to a virtual Easter service via Facebook. Today, Victory Headquarters is again holding church in person, in addition to Facebook Live events.
So far, Gregory said, finding the room for social distancing at those services hasn’t been a problem.
“We never have a really large crowd, because most of our people now follow us online,” Gregory said.