BY BILL DEMAREST
NYACK – The Rev. Willie Hairston and members of his Nyack congregation at Pilgrim Baptist Church didn’t care where they came from, but everyone who took part in the church’s pre-Thanksgiving Harvest Fest carried away pretty much everything they would need to ensure their families would have a good Thanksgiving meal today.
“We put the word out that anyone who needed something could come here,” said Hairston, who has been pastor of the church at the corner of High Avenue and Franklin Street for 24 years. “You open the door and you never know who will be blessed.”
Members of Pilgrim Baptist Church are no strangers to helping those in need, with year-round efforts providing groceries and hot meals for local residents who need assistance. But Hairston said the Harvest Fest is a special effort for the congregation to make sure that local families can enjoy a bountiful Thanksgiving in their own homes.
“We try to help wherever we can,” said Hairston, who dressed up in farmer’s overalls to help distribute Thanksgiving turkeys and other fixings at the Harvest Fest celebration at the church on Sunday. The celebration began with singing, and then a long blue curtain came down, revealing the bounty that had been gathered for distribution.
“People have been very generous so that we could do this today,” said Hairston, explaining that donations of food and money came from friends in the community and even complete strangers. “People would drive by, see our sign and come in and ask what we needed. People who come by and drop off a couple of turkeys. This shows there are people out there who care, who want to help.”
Financial contributions made it possible for the congregation to buy bushels of vegetables, and 120 turkeys were donated to the Harvest Fest by Nyack businessman Keith Taylor, owner of Hannemann Funeral Home.
After those gathered at the Harvest Fest had all received holiday meal supplies – and bagged lunches for the afternoon if they needed them – Hairston said that the Harvest Fest effort still had a lot of work left to be done.
“There are people who are sick, and homebound and can’t get out,” Hairston said. “We are going to make sure they have everything they need.”
On Monday, Hairston and other members of his congregation started making the rounds to local residents they knew needed holiday supplies. However, Hairston said he would also be reaching out to local residents who he knows need help, but are too proud to come to the church for the free holiday food.