Feeding, growing, honoring: Seventh annual Thanksgiving dinner needs volunteers

Weekday broadcast of WYMT Mountain News First at Four
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 7:21 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2023 at 7:45 PM EST
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PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - One Church of Eastern Kentucky is preparing for its annual Thanksgiving dinner this week, with plans to serve thousands of community members with its growing ministry.

The event, which offers free, on-site dinners at the Appalachian Wireless Arena for anyone in need, also delivers meals around the area. However, such a large operation requires a large number of volunteers to keep the wheels rolling and the meals flowing. So, organizers are working to get more boots on the ground ahead of the community dinner.

Organizers expect more than 17,000 dinners to pour from the mission this year, with around 2,500 of those served on-site at the arena and others traveling through Pike, Letcher and Floyd counties.

While the dinner is growing, it is also changing, with the Appalachian Wireless Arena’s portion of the dinner taking on a new name to honor an old friend to many in the Pikeville area and beyond.

Pastor Gene Layne served at Pikeville Church of God MPGT for more than one decade before his death in 2014. For his dedicated service and work in ministry, his community service work and his tireless efforts to make the region a better place, Appalachian Wireless Arena GM Larry Miller wanted to keep his legacy of charity alive through the mountain mission that supports the same values he held.

The arena made its announcement on Facebook, saying the Pastor Gene Layne Memorial Dinner will keep his memory alive, adding that his widow has always been part of the effort to feed the people.

“Pastor Layne has gone on to be with the Lord and we felt it was appropriate to honor him by naming the dine-in portion on the dinner after him. His wife Sandy is carrying on his work and serving the Pikeville area and ministering to those in need. She is a big part of One Church and her and her church deliver several thousand meals each year. Sandy will be the first to tell you it is not about her or Gene, it is all about Jesus Christ,” the post said.

Volunteers can show up to the arena at 7:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day to help with the efforts. Meals will be served at the arena from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m.