“Our service members go out and serve for us; let us serve them,” said Mary Francis-Murphy, the president of the outreach team at the Unity Christian Center (UCC) on E. Russell Street.

On Nov. 16, 150 Soldiers were served by the UCC congregation members as an early Thanksgiving celebration, meet-and-greet and gesture of goodwill.

Francis-Murphy, whose husband served on Fort Bragg in the 1970s, said the meal is their way to “let them know that we believe in giving back.”

The meal was prepared by individual UCC members, brought to the church and delivered on post.

Veterans are included among the participating parishioners, including their pastor, Lesley Matthews, who retired a sergeant major after 30 years in service.

“We’re very military-affiliated,” Francis-Murphy said.

The 5 p.m. meal was accompanied by raffle tickets and gift cards, all of which were courtesy of local community businesses.

“There’s not always time for a home-cooked meal for (the Soldiers),” she continued.

Francis-Murphy, a Florida native and UCC member for 17 years, said the outreach has “everyone excited, looking forward to it.”

The Thanksgiving meal provided by UCC is the first they’ve done, with hopes toward an annual tradition.

“We’re planning on inviting more troops next year,” she said. UCC has an eye toward care packages and other forms of outreach to “those who put their lives on the line.”