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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Fayetteville church held its annual "Operation Compassion," handing out more than 5,000 meals to individuals and first responders.
Epicenter Church, with the help of 1 Big Family, served the meals on Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at its main church, along with several other locations throughout Fayetteville.
Mark Knight, Lead Pastor at Epicenter Church, told ABC11 that they collected an abundance of food for this evening and the rest of the holiday season. "It was a lot, man. We've raised 15,000 pounds of food."
This church event, along with other outreaches, have become more crucial with the recent loss of "Operation Turkey," a yearly Thanksgiving Day event that feeds more than 15,000 people in the Sandhills. Organizers of that operation chose to cancel the event due to COVID-19 concerns.
Pastor Knight said they've had to try and meet the demand from the loss of that operation. "We divided the food for them in Lumberton and Spring Lake."
In recent years, Pastor Knight told ABC11 they've also expanded their reach to local law enforcement and first responders. This year, they delivered hot meals to medical staff at Cape Fear and several different law enforcement agencies.
Teresa Nugent, a member of Epicenter Church and registered nurse at Womack Army Medical Center on Fort Bragg, stopped by the church, after a morning shift, to help pass out meals on Tuesday.
"It's all worth it. Save people, serve people," Nugent said.
The off-duty nurse says these kinds of gestures of appreciation make a difference, especially for the medical staff who have been dealing with such a trying year.
"It means a lot to have somebody take the time, out of their day, and fix food for us and bring it to us, and so, it means a lot," Nugent said.
Volunteers and staff also took every precaution to make sure the food and workers were safe from COVID-19 with outdoor distribution centers, masks, and social distancing.
If anyone is in need of food, Epicenter Church's food pantry is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.