Ballard County church feast lifts spirits in times of hardship

A community was hit with hardship just days before the holiday. Hundreds of people were laid off from The Verso paper mill in Ballard County, Kentucky earlier this month. Grace United Methodist Church in LaCenter served up a Thanksgiving feast to help lift the community’s spirit.

The Verso paper mill sits quietly in the distance with only 20 people working to keep it idling safely. Just minutes away, a building was busy on Thursday with people lining up for a free Thanksgiving meal.

"I’ve been trying to stay busy but reality is starting to sink in," said former Verso employee Bill Edwards.

He worked at the paper mill for almost 40 years.

"November 13 was my last day," he said.

Now Edwards is volunteering at events like a community meal at the Grace United Methodist Church to stay busy.

"We’re still trying to find out what’s going to be available to us as far as going back to school, and getting funding and stuff like that," Edwards said.

Church member Michael Hargrove started the meal about four years ago, and over the years it’s grown.

"It fills a heart full of joy and it’s a good thing," Hargrove said.

He says the need may be even greater in the years to come.

"If someone doesn’t come in and buy the business, you know the plant, next time I figure we’ll have a whole lot more," Hargrove said.

"There, there’s a real need here in Ballard County. There’s a need in all of Western Kentucky. We need industry, and we need jobs and until we get those we’re going to be here to help out who we can," David Logsdon, a church member who helped Hargrove plan the dinner.

Hargrove says he will continue planning this meal in the years to come for anyone who needs a meal or a place to go on the holiday.

"It just makes us feel good and that’s what the Lord wants us to do," he said.

The Grace United Methodist Church served more than 100 meals on Thursday. That’s compared to the 72 meals served four years ago, when the first community Thanksgiving dinner was held.

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