Pamela Taylor usually cooks a fat turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn pudding, hot rolls and plenty of sweet potato pie on Thanksgiving. She and her husband never imagined doing anything else.
But in September, life changed for the Taylor family when flood waters from Hurricane Floyd destroyed their three-bedroom home on an acre lot near Whiteford, N.C.
They lost their jobs and their comfortable income and found themselves in Mount Rainier, near relatives, trying to start life over.
"I just thank God that He just let us see this Thanksgiving," said Pamela, whose family will sit down to a holiday meal that was donated by members of the Mount Rainier Christian Church.
The congregation is part of a county network of churches, nonprofit groups and social organizations that will feed those in need tomorrow.
There also is a feeding program in the county, coordinated by Community Ministry of Prince George's, that is busy year-round.
And there are county programs that also help the needy.
Karyn Lynch, director of the Prince George's County Department of Social Services, said about 2,000 families will receive food baskets from businesses, individual families and churches through the county's Holiday Sharing Program.
"The program serves seniors, the working poor and individuals who are served through the health and human services agencies of Prince George's County," Lynch said. "Volunteers identify and deliver baskets of foods to those in need during Thanksgiving and the holidays. This is a multidenominational program."
The pastor of Mount Rainier Christian Church, the Rev. Malcolm Smith, said his 90-member congregation will give Thanksgiving food baskets to about 70 families this year. "What we do is an expression of gratitude because we are grateful to God and we want to share our blessings."
From the Heart Church Ministries, in Temple Hills, will distribute more than 200 food baskets beginning this week.
"This is something that we do every year," said Toni Fox, church secretary. "The members started putting together a list back in September. People know that we provide baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas."
Several charitable organizations also are preparing food baskets for those in need.
Jack and Jill of America, a nonprofit family organization that was formed 25 years ago, is among them. Roslyn Murphy, president of the Prince George's County chapter, said about 60 children in the organization are preparing baskets for the needy.
Geneva Mays, who organized the chapter in 1974, said that learning about helping those less fortunate is a valuable lesson for children who are affluent.
Jack and Jill is an organization made up primarily of black professionals and their children, Mays said. "The children in Jack and Jill come from a very privileged class, and it is important for them to know the value of giving to others."
The Taylor family didn't have many needs before their home was destroyed. Johnny and his wife worked at the Days Inn in Aberdeen, N.C., where he was in maintenance and she worked in the housekeeping department.
But after the storm, the Taylors were fired because the hotel manager wanted Johnny to report for duty even though the family didn't have a place to live. "We came to the Washington area because my wife's family is here," Johnny said.
Life is looking a little brighter now.
Johnny Taylor said one day he visited a construction site in Northeast Washington. A foreman walked up, saw the North Carolina tags on his 1998 Ford Escort and asked, "Are you all right?" After Johnny said he lost everything, he was hired on the spot.
"It was really a blessing," said Johnny, who is now laying pipes for a construction company. Pamela is looking for work, and their daughters brought home good grades from their first six weeks in a new school system.
"People have really been nice here, especially my child's school," Pamela said.
On Sunday, the Taylor family will worship together at the Mount Bethel Baptist Church in Northwest Washington, where Johnny and his two daughters will be baptized.
"Losing everything has made me closer to God and realize that life ain't no joke," said Johnny, who did not attend church on a regular basis before the flood. "I just thank God for every day and every time I look in the room and see my family."
The Rev. Bobby Livingston, pastor of Mount Bethel Baptist Church, said he admired the Taylor family. "When tough times come, a lot of folks will just throw up their hands. A lot of folks come to this area and don't think about joining a church."
Pamela Taylor is looking on the bright side.
"I praise the Lord that I got out with my family and we have adjusted to the situation. That's what Thanksgiving is about--family and love."