By Sarrah Peters
For the 21st year, CommUnity Thanksgiving will offer a free holiday meal to anyone on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 28 at The Venue at Coosa Landing in Gadsden.
The Thanksgiving feast starts at 10 a.m. and will be open until 2 p.m. The event has a pick-up option and deliveries can be arranged.
“We deliver to the sick elderly or homebound,” said event coordinator Vicki Lister. “If for some reason you can’t get out, we deliver.”
Those who know somebody that needs a plate delivered, can call United Way’s 2-1-1 to get them added to the list or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Thanksgiving was started by Pastor Joe Simmons at New Liberty Tabernacle of Praise in 1998. Although the event quickly outgrew the church, the community continued to come together to offer the holiday meal.
“Last year, we made over 6,300 plates,”’ said Lister. “That is three times more than any other mission in this state. Much cities have these dinners; it’s a necessity. But nobody makes as many plates as we do.”
To feed the crowd, 1,700 pounds of turkey will be delivered. The Gadsden Job Corps will make cornbread, which then will be used to make pans of dressing. Green beans, cranberry sauce, a sweet potato casserole and rolls with cake for dessert will also be served.
“This meal is free and open for everybody,” said Lister. “Anybody can come eat. We encourage it. Come eat! Come join us! It’s a very traditional, delicious Thanksgiving meal.”
CommUnity Thanksgiving could not be held without donations and volunteers from the community.
“We are not unwritten by any agency,” said Lister. “Nobody carries us. It is 100 percent done by donations and volunteers.”
The event is still welcoming donations and sponsorships to help fund this year’s meal.
“Just the food is $18,000, and there are other expenses on top of that,” said Lister. “This will end up costing probably $19,000. So, we do need donations, and any donation is appreciated. No donation is too small.”
Donations can be given through PayPal at Paypal.me/commthanks; mailed to United Way, P.O. Box 1175, Gadsden, AL, 35902, with Community Thanksgiving written on the memo line; or delivered in to United Way or the CommUnity Thanksgiving event in person.
Sponsors include Turkey and Dressing sponsor GREER Contracting, Applied Medical Solutions, Modern Woodmen, Peoples Bank of Alabama, River Bank & Trust and Campers Unlimited.
Lister is particularly grateful to the many volunteers that make the meal possible.
“In this town, Gadsden, and Etowah County, we have the best volunteers,” said Vicki Lister. “So many people give their time and effort. It is incredible how they work to make this happen.”
Volunteers start accepting deliveries and setting up for the event on the Monday before the event. The days leading up to the event, volunteers will start doing preparation for the meal. The day of the event, volunteers begin cooking at 4:45 a.m.
“Last year, we had over 1,000 volunteers,” said Lister. “And we love them and need them.”
In addition to preparing the food and setting up for the event, volunteers help serve and clean-up.
“We do especially need some cleanup help after the event from about 2 to 4 p.m.,” said Lister.
A volunteer signup link is available on the CommUnity Thanksgiving Celebration Facebook page, but Lister says that it is not required that volunteers sign up beforehand. A lot of regular volunteers just show up the day of the event to help.
The local schools and library help to decorate for the event. Gadsden City Schools and Etowah County Schools have made placemats that will be used at the event. The Gadsden Public Library Teen Department will provide the table decorations for the event.
“It is an incredible outpouring from this community,” said Lister.
Lister credits God and the community for continuing to make CommUnity Thanksgiving a success every year.
“I feel like God has blessed this event every year,” said Lister. “I feel like we absolutely couldn’t do it without God at the center of it. All of our volunteers are there because they want to help other people. They want to help, and they do. They make this possible. We just couldn’t do it without blessings. I am just so amazed at how giving and good this community is.”