Northstar Feeds 5,000 Local Families for Thanksgiving

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PANAMA CITY - Northstar Church partnered with an international charity to help feed 5,000 Bay County families in need this Thanksgiving.

A Hand Up International and Northstar Church held the first annual Feed 5,000 event at three campuses across Bay County.

More than 600 volunteers helped pack boxes of food for families in need.

Ruth Mott works as a support staff for the school board and her husband is retired.

Mott said they would be celebrating Thanksgiving without food if it weren't for Saturday's event.

"I'm off a whole week from school with no pay so this helps a lot," Motta said, "We wouldn't have been able to have family over for Thanksgiving. We are just so thankful and grateful."

Organizers had planned for a large crowd, but still say they were surprised with the turnout.

Northstar Church Pastor Roy Mansfield said, "There were more people who came than we had food for."

He said, "It was heartbreaking that there were people who were hungry and we didn't have enough food for them."

Officials say there is a huge hunger problem in Bay County.

Dr. Paula Kaye Jones with A Hand Up International said, "It's a choice from month-to-month, do we pay out electricity bill or do we have food? With some of these families it's not even about having Thanksgiving, it's about having food on the table."

Some of the distribution centers ran out food even before the doors opened.

Mansfield said, "I was just as blown away by the overwhelming generosity of people. There were a couple people who came up to me and said, 'I think there might be people who need this more than I do.' They just left so those people could be served."

Organizers fed about 6,000 people Saturday.