By Donna Thornton/News Editor
United Way 211/First Call for Help Director Susan Carter said the biggest message she would like to convey about the upcoming CommUnity Thanksgiving lunch is an invitation to be a part of this community celebration.
Volunteers are needed, Carter said, to drive and deliver meals to people who cannot come to Convention Hall for the lunch, and help is always needed in the dish room.
Starting around 12:30 or 1 p.m., cleanup help will be needed.
“We need greeters,” Carter said, “people to do what I would call hospitality. We always have a lot of spontaneous volunteers.”
If people come to Convention Hall and do not immediately have something to help with, Carter said, they should not be discouraged – there will be work to go around.
For those who need or want a good meal and companionship for Thanksgiving, Carter and the small army of volunteers who are helping with the lunch invite everyone to join them between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. for a full Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings.
If you need a lunch delivered, Carter said, call 211 or 546-4357 between 8 a.m. 4:30 p.m., before 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
If you need a ride to Convention Hall for lunch, or if you want to help in this community-wide event, call the same number.
Carter said organizers will be prepared to feed 4,000 this Thanksgiving. She said that is really the capacity for Convention Hall.
Last year, Carter said 3,700 meals were served. The year before, it was 3,900.
This community-wide celebration began with the Rev. Willie J. Simmons and the Community Development 2000 project.
In 1998, the project hosted a free Thanksgiving meal for the homebound, the lonely or the bereaved with the idea that no one should be alone on Thanksgiving.
As the annual event grew and grew, Simmons approached the United Way in 2005 about making it a community-wide effort.
The CommUnity Thanksgiving has continued, with the organizational efforts of the United Way and volunteer help from around the community.
Carter estimated more than 500 volunteers will help with some part of the preparation, deliveries and clean up this year.