Local church hosts annual free BBQ chicken meal for community members


BIG FLATS, N.Y. (WETM) – Community members were first skeptical to a free barbeque chicken dinner when this event started over 10 years ago. Now, the senior pastor of Higher Hope Church says people even look forward to it.

Higher Hope Church is helping the community stay fed during difficult times with their annual Free Chicken BBQ Dinner. The event started at 11 a.m. and ran until around 1:30 p.m.

They had 750 chicken quarters prepared for the community. Each meal included salt potatoes, cole slaw, a dinner roll, water bottles and dessert.

To prepare the chicken dinners, over 50 volunteers started their day at 7 a.m.

Higher Hope Church also delivered a few meals throughout the area like to the Transformation Center in Elmira.

The senior pastor, Mike Schooley, said he’s seen how they’ve earned the community’s trust throughout the years.

“We started with people who didn’t really trust the free part of the chicken dinner and over the 10 years, it’s interesting to watch people they know that we’re here,” said Schooley. “They look for it coming every year.”

A church staff member and event organizer, Rob Wood, said there’s nothing in it for them other than helping out their neighbors.

“It’s tough for people to understand a free gift,” said Wood. “They get this free chicken and people come up and try to hand us a 20 dollar bill. But see, no, understand this is just for free, this is for you because we love the community and want to be a part of you.”

Schooley said this event shows two core values of their church – generosity and service.

“We want to do it because we care about every person in our community no matter what their story is what their background is,” said Schooley. “We feel that this is one small way of just letting them know that they’re cared for and loved.”

Around 1:30 volunteers took the rest of the barbeque chicken dinners to the Big Flats little League Baseball Field.

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