By NATE KING
More than 500 volunteers and church members from The Ark Church in Salina shared the love on Saturday by giving out Thanksgiving groceries to 600 families.
The Sixth Annual Ark Salina Thanksgiving Grocery Giveaway brought a total of 600 cars—some arriving as early as 5 a.m. to the Dean Evans Stadium, 851 Markley Road, in Salina.
As cars entered the parking lot that morning, The Ark Lead Pastor and Salina native, John Huseman, began to pray with volunteers.
"It's the chance for us to bless the community. It's a chance for us to reach out and help people that might be hurting or might be going through a tough time," Huseman said. "We'd love to just love this city. There's a big sign in our auditorium that says love our city, and this is one of the ways that we do that."
"It is more than just food. We're adding hope, we're adding care — not just to people in this line, but to each other as well. Let's be joyous. Let's be excited. Let's be thankful," Huseman said to volunteers before he led them in prayer.
According to the USDA food prices grew by 6.3% in 2023—higher than average, but not as bad as the more than 11% increase we saw last year. People across the country, and in Saline County, are struggling to put a holiday meal on the table for their loved ones and families.
Vehicles pulled out of the parking lot with more than $100 in groceries, including frozen chicken nuggets, bread, a bag of Idaho potatoes, frozen hamburger, peanut butter and jelly, corn, frozen pizzas, and more.
In total roughly the Ark church gave out $66,000 worth of groceries.
Line leaders guided and organized the cars into a grid in the parking lot. Once the food service teams were ready to place food in the vehicles, column after column of vehicles made their way through a tunnel of people waving and sharing messages of blessings and kindness.
"We hear testimonies all the time. It's like they [volunteers] get more out of it than any other thing that they do all year," Huseman said.
"So they feel value, they feel purpose, it's able to extend the love of God so they love it."
Back in 2017 the giveaway was held at Ace Hardware in Salina. With only 100 volunteers, the group helped merely half of the number of families they helped this year. Thanks to community interest and the need for more helpers during the holidays, the volunteer team continues to grow year after year.
Don Petty said he learned about the giveaway from a friend.
"This is our third year coming. Makes me and my family eat better that's for sure," Petty said. "There's people out there that really care about the rest of us, And yeah, it makes me feel real good, warm."