Some city residents had an early opportunity to give thanks this weekend.

Nearly 60 people were waiting for the doors to open at the JOY Soup Kitchen just after 11 a.m. on Saturday. Inside, more than 20 volunteers continued the work they had been doing since 8 a.m, cooking Thanksgiving meals for those less fortunate in the Greenville community. 

It was not the first day the crew had been hard at work, as they had served hundreds a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal during the past two days. 

At the head of the group was Vivian Bryant, the team’s kitchen manager. Bryant experienced her first year leading the group, after longtime event coordinator Barbara Taft retired last year. 

“I’ve been here with her (Taft) for 14 years,” Bryant said. “I’m just kind of following what she already started. I love to cook, so events like this are right in my lane.”

Bryant originally joined the JOY (Jesus, Others, You) team after her aunt invited her to participate in 2004. She and her team crowded the kitchen, creating trays that had ingredients of a classic Southern Thanksgiving, including turkey, ham, cornbread, biscuits, green beans and more.

“We have ham, turkey, string beans, pudding, stuffing, gravy, mac and cheese, peas, cabbage, rolls — we have everything,” Bryant said with a smile. 

Recipients received two meals each. The trays shared the same side dishes, but differed in the main course with ham and turkey. Before receiving their meals, a prayer was said, thanking God for the food and praying for the less fortunate in the area.

“I’ve been doing this for awhile now, I’m from New Orleans, so my mom was a preacher and I’m friends with Vivian’s daughter,” volunteer Keira Brown said. “When I saw that she did this I just jumped right in head first. It makes me feel good to see others coming together to help others. You can feel it in your heart and in your spirit.”

The feeling of giving back is one Brown hopes to give to her children once they are old enough to participate in JOY’s efforts. She also hopes to show others that it is not only important to give back in the holiday season, but year ’round.

“It’s so important to give back every day,” Brown said. “I’ve been a person in need before and there are others who may not know there are people who care for them and are willing to help, willing to listen to what’s going on with them. If they need shoes or any type of resource, Vivian is there for them. “

Brown added that Bryant is known for her constant efforts to help others. Fom cooking for those in her neighborhood to working to assist the elderly, she embodies what it means to help others in their time of need. 

Her efforts inspired others like Dan Hudak to wake up and help.

“I’ve really enjoyed helping,” Hudak said. “Everyone here has a job and it is so organized, it’s great.”

Hudak, like his fellow volunteers, understood the importance of his efforts in the holiday season.

“It’s important, especially around the holidays, to give back because it makes you feel good to help out the community and those less fortunate.”

JOY Soup Kitchen is in need of donations to remain operational and continue helping those in the Greenville community.

For more information about JOY Soup Kitchen, visit the website at or visit To donate, call 320-9292 or mail checks to JOY Soup Kitchen, c/o St Timothy’s Episcopal Church, 107 Louis St., Greenville, NC 27858. To volunteer, call 561-7519.

Contact Jake Keator at, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.