By Cindy Adams


There is no denying there’s more to a meal than food and that truth is particularly evident at Thanksgiving. The members of St. John Lutheran in Roanoke demonstrate God’s love in abundance as they prepare Thanksgiving baskets for Minnick students in need each year.

"The boxes and bags we give to Minnick families include turkey, the traditional sides, and dessert, but they also include a whole lot more," explained Bob Bengtson who helps coordinate this annual program for St. John, along with a team of dedicated church members. "It’s really Thanksgiving plus!"

St. John Lutheran has been doing this for over 25 years and the donations to purchase the food regularly exceed the cost. Their gift contains more than just a meal; there is also care, kindness, generosity, and compassion.

Families referred by Roanoke Minnick, CHIP, Roanoke County and Roanoke City Social Services Department are the recipients of this generosity.

"We will often choose parents who are out of a job or have a large family to receive the Thanksgiving meals," said Tanisha Nash, Roanoke Minnick Assistant Principal, and the school’s program organizer. "For many, it comes as a very welcome holiday surprise!"

One year, the meal followed a tragic house fire for a Roanoke Minnick family. The timing couldn’t have been better. The support was a Godsend.

"The families are quick to acknowledge how helpful the food is, and they are sincerely grateful," Tanisha said. "That’s what really makes the program so special."

Bob says every now and then, they’ll receive a heartfelt thank you letter from a family that has benefited from the gift. It lets them know they have made a meaningful connection and that is their hope.

This year, 137 families will receive Thanksgiving PLUS. For fifteen Minnick families, it’s a blessing that far exceeds the food in the baskets.