PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Groves

November 23, 2013

Nonprofit organization brings Thanksgiving to 700 families

GROVES — Axel Ericksen has spent the last 10 months walking — sometimes aimlessly, sometimes with a destination in mind, stopping to rest “wherever the sleeping bag puts me at night.” His journey began in Astoria, Ore., in February 2013 — nearly three years after the BP oil spill put the former commercial diver out of business.

On Saturday, as Ericksen walked down Highway 73 in Groves, a woman he had never seen before pulled over and invited him into her car. She drove him to the Mid America Contractors building, 3900 East Parkway Street, where volunteers had been preparing a colossal Thanksgiving feast since 6 a.m.

“I hadn’t eaten in three days,” Ericksen, a native of Ontario, Canada, said. “Now I’m good for a week.”

Elizabeth Cravens has heard many stories like Ericksen’s. In 2008, Cravens, president of Mid America Contractors, founded Everlasting Changes, a Christian organization that serves the community throughout the year. For the last four years, the organization has provided a Thanksgiving meal for local families before sending them on their way with a turkey and a basket of food for the upcoming holiday.

“It’s amazing, the things you hear,” said Cravens, who lives in Nederland. “That’s what brings joy and fulfillment.”

 This year, 700 families pre-selected through schools, churches and other non-profit organizations redeemed their vouchers for a feast that included holiday favorites such as cornbread dressing and turkey. Cravens, along with her two children — Kristen, 17, and Owen, 8 — and 65 volunteers, was only too happy to serve, doling generous portions onto plates and stopping frequently to chat with the guests.

“It’s awesome to see people bringing their families here,” Cravens said. “I tell them, ‘Bring them all. Take time out of your day. Sit down. Know each other.’”

Port Arthur resident LaQuisha Taylor attended the event with her two children, but it was the turkey that drew her there that day. Without Everlasting Changes, turkey would not have been a possibility for her family, Taylor said.

“We didn’t know how we were going to do Thanksgiving this year,” she said. “We really did need help, and I thank God for them.”

Cravens has set a goal of 800 families for next year’s event, and she expects the event to grow exponentially more each year. Unwilling to cave to limitations, Cravens has reserved the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur for the 2015 feast, and is always seeking sponsors to help increase outreach.

“We will help however many people our capacity allows us,” Cravens said. “The essence of living is giving.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA

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