Victory Christian Center treats homeless to fine dining Thanksgiving meal

PHILADELPHIA — Fine dining and star treatment are typically attributes of five-star restaurants patronized by affluent guests, but on Tuesday that description could have described the diners at Victory Christian Center (VCC) at 52nd and Whitby Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia.

Visitors at VCC were greeted by members who welcomed them enhusiastically and escorted them to their tables where they enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings. They were treated like celebrities even though these guests didn’t come from Hollywood but from area homeless shelters instead.

“We are feeding 200-plus people from the shelters and the homeless and we just want them to know that we care and we love them,” said Apostle Jimmy Ellis, VCC pastor.

To help organize the event, VCC called Philadelphia Shelters and reached out to area homeless advocates to spread the word that they could enjoy a full Thanksgiving meal and fellowship at the church.

Hundreds responded with some shelters providing transportation to residents wishing to attend.

“Ever since VCC’s inception we have given out Thanksgiving baskets. Every year we have given out 300-400 baskets a year,” Ellis said.

This year was a little different.

“This year I felt compelled to change that. I felt that the church needed a more hands-on approach to the individual instead of just giving them a basket,” he said.

“I came up with the concept that we would serve the people and my ministers, my elders and my deacons are all the servants and we are going to show the love of Jesus Christ.”

Transforming the church into a fine dining eating establishment took some doing but Ellis said that when he discussed it with VCC members and informed them that he wanted to touch the lives of people who may not have a place to eat, or were hungry, they did not hesitate.

When he took up an offering to be used to pay for the food, members dug deep and made it happen.

“We raised the money with just one offering and we brought the food and we wanted it to be excellent,” said Ellis.

And it was. Guests were treated to a meal consisting of turkey, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, string beans, collard greens and dessert.

“Today is really about serving our community and being hands-on. We are Christians and that is supposed to be the core of what we are about,” Gayle Gaskins of VCC.

“We have people coming from homeless shelters, we have people coming from senior homes, we have families; I met generations of families who came today to just receive a meal and give thanks,” she said.

Tom Waters is an Elder at VCC and said the members of the church were honored to serve people in the community.

“We are grateful to be able to reach out, feed people and spend some time with them, just show them some love and compassion, to show the love of Christ which is what we should be doing anyway,” said Waters.

Waters said it took the church two weeks to organize and prepare the event but everyone worked together to make it happen.

“All of the leadership of the church are serving today,” he said.

Mark Harrell of the Southwest Community Development Corporation praised the work of VCC which he said was much needed in the area.

“Southwest Philadelphia is a section of the city where poverty is most pronounced so any opportunity to give back, which Apostle Ellis does every year, is a great opportunity.”