WILLIAMSON - As Tug Valley families gather around their tables to partake of their Thanksgiving dinner, Jacob’s Well Mission is asking them to take a moment to remember those less fortunate who can’t share in that joy, many of whom have no means to even prepare the simplest of meals - because they are homeless.
As the increase in unemployment continues to make a steady climb and the number of available jobs decline, more and more families and individuals in the Tug Valley area find themselves pinching pennies and “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. Wants are no longer a consideration at all and needs are soon prioritized, with many having to choose between keeping the electric on, buying groceries or purchasing medication essential for survival.
In an effort to ease the pain of those suffering, Janette O’Brien felt a calling to do more with her life and was led to “feed the hungry”. With a team of dedicated volunteers by her side as well as others who make monetary donations, “Jacob’s Well” is now providing hot meals five days a week as well as on Saturday, following a Bible study class that is held at their location of 151 3rd Avenue in Williamson, in the former Cantees Department Store building.
Thanks to the blessings of additional volunteers, O’Brien is ecstatic to be able to feed the needy throughout the week, as opposed to three days a week in the past few years.
“I kept praying that God would lay it on more people’s hearts to come and give us a hand and thankfully, he answered those prayers and seen the need of the people struggling in our county and sent us more volunteers,” said the Director. “We have been so blessed and and I believe in paying forward, and we want to help everyone that we can.”
Some of the individuals who frequent Jacob’s Well to take advantage of the offer of a hot meal told the Williamson Daily News it’s the only meal they eat throughout the day and do not have any idea what they would do or how they’d survive without that nourishment.
“I have no home,” said one man who asked to only be identified as “Joe”. “I lost my job a few years ago and everything went downhill from there. I couldn’t pay my rent and because I had made mistakes in my younger days that gave me a criminal record, I couldn’t qualify for any assistance from the state or government. I stayed with family when I could but soon found myself in a raggedy tent, living under the bridge.”
“In the summer months it’s tolerable, you kinda block it out in your mind so it don’t drive you crazy but when winter time comes, you can’t do that anymore. The only time I get warm is when I come in here and sit down to eat, and that’s the truth.”
“This meal keeps me alive.”
When asked if he could recall the last time he celebrated Thanksgiving dinner with family, Joe grew silent; thought for a moment and then he spoke, with a voice filled with tears.
“I was 14 years old, it was the last Thanksgiving my mom was alive. There was probably 8-10 of us there and I remember that mom had worked for 2 days straight cooking and baking. We ate until we couldn’t walk and then we played Christmas records and put up a tree. In January of the next year. mom passed away and dad abandoned us, me and my two brothers and three sisters. We were separated and sent to live with any family member that would keep us. I started acting out, I was so angry at God for taking the only person in my life that loved me. I was soon on the streets living on my own. Life for me from that time was never the same.”
Joe said that the volunteers at Jacob’s Well have done a lot more than feed him. They have clothed him, making sure he had a coat, gloves, toboggan, socks - he said the list goes on and on.
“When I walk in here, I’m treated like a human, I’m not looked down on or made to feel worthless. They all know my name and they greet me and ask me how I’m doing and if there’s anything I need. They always tell me to be careful when I leave and that they’re praying for me. That means a lot.”
Thanksgiving Dinner at the mission included turkey and dressing, ham, a number of side dishes and an assortment of desserts and a drink. There was a steady line of people waiting their turn to be served from the time the doors opened at 11 a.m. on Monday, until they last plate of prepared food was passed out. O’Brien said that the total meals served in 2012 was 350 and she fully expected to exceed that number this year.
“This is what it’s all about,” said the Director. “God intends for us to help others, that’s the path he wants us to take and as long as I can do his will and his work, this is exactly where I will be.”
If you would like information on volunteering to assist at Jacob’s Well or make a donation, you may call 304-236-5955 or 304-235-2730.