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First Baptist of Lawrenceville serves Thanksgiving meal to needy

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Stephany Marban, 5, and her sister Litzy, 7, of Loganville receive a Thanksgiving meal from members of First Baptist Church of Lawrenceville on Thursday. Roughly 200 meals were served to those in need during the Thanksgiving holiday, over half coming from delivered meals to local fire departments, police departments, nursing homes and Gwinnett Medical Center.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Stephany Marban, 5, and her sister Litzy, 7, of Loganville receive a Thanksgiving meal from members of First Baptist Church of Lawrenceville on Thursday. Roughly 200 meals were served to those in need during the Thanksgiving holiday, over half coming from delivered meals to local fire departments, police departments, nursing homes and Gwinnett Medical Center.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Church member Ann Hortnan from First Baptist Church of Lawrenceville provides a Thanksgiving meal for delivery to those in need Thursday. Roughly 200 meals were served to those in need during the Thanksgiving holiday, over half coming from delivered meals to local fire departments, police departments, nursing homes and Gwinnett Medical Center.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Church members Ryan and Allyson Vamplew serve up a Thanksgiving meal for Quilino Sanchez, Litzy Marban, 7, Stephany Marban, 5, and Merenciana Sanchez, as Jannetta Johnson, right, looks on at First Baptist Church of Lawrenceville downtown Thursday. Roughly 200 meals were served to those in need during the Thanksgiving holiday, over half coming from delivered meals to local fire departments, police departments, nursing homes and Gwinnett Medical Center.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan A hot plate of ham, turkey, stuffing, corn, broccoli, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a devil egg was on the menu for those in need served by members from First Baptist Church of Lawrenceville downtown Thursday. Roughly 200 meals were served to those in need during the Thanksgiving holiday, over half coming from delivered meals to local fire departments, police departments, nursing homes and Gwinnett Medical Center.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Church member Brenda Sue Davis from First Baptist Church of Lawrenceville talks with members of her English Second Language class after providing them with a Thanksgiving meal downtown Thursday. Roughly 200 meals were served to those in need during the Thanksgiving holiday, over half coming from delivered meals to local fire departments, police departments, nursing homes and Gwinnett Medical Center.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- There's something about Jannetta Johnson. She just can't help herself.

"I've got this need to feed people," she said Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, fully entrenched in her element.

By her own count, the quirky, gray-haired Samaritan coordinated a Thanksgiving meal for the needy for at least the 15th straight year at the First Baptist Church of Lawrenceville.

Volunteers formed an assembly line of sorts Thursday afternoon, heaping helpings of turkey, ham, stuffing, broccoli and sweet potatoes on to plates as Johnson kindly ran the show. Slow at first, those in need began pouring into the church basement for a warm meal (and a huge selection of desserts).

"I appreciate it. It's great, it's wonderful of the church," visitor Marion Maready said. "It's very beautiful."

Margaret Neese, who said she had been coming to First Baptist of Lawrenceville on Thanksgiving for several years, just smiled when asked what it meant to her.

"This is a good lunch," she said.

The best part, aside from the fellowship, was obvious.

"The sweet potato pie," Neese said.

Between preparation and service, Johnson said at least 30 volunteers had helped out with the annual meal. At least 100 folks typically come throughout an hour or two, and that's not counting the 103 meals that church and community members delivered to the disabled, sick and what Johnson called "shut-ins" on Thursday.

Entire families came to the church and enjoyed a hearty meal they might not have otherwise shared.

Johnson, donning an apron and helping refill lemonade, offered a simple explanation for her deeds over the last decade-plus.

"I guess it's just because there are people who need our love," she said, "and we're going to extend it."