Some late donations made the 20th-annual Thanksgiving meal at First Baptist Church a rousing success.
Earlier in the month, organizers were concerned they might not be able to provide the same level of service as in the past, but on Thursday a hot holiday meal awaited hundreds of folks.
“Due to the outpouring from the community, we’re on for Thursday,” came a comment Thursday from Darris Wilkins, of Friends of a Brighter Community, which hosts the dinner.
Wilkins told The News two weeks ago that instead of the usual 30 turkeys to prepare, the group only had 10 up to that point, as well as a need for other supplies to provide for anywhere from 250 to 400 people as the church has hosted in the past.
After the story ran in the newspaper, local residents discovered the need and jumped on board. Wilkins said the group was able to prepare 37 turkeys this week.
It’s been a long road for the community holiday meal, and Wilkins said she’s happy and thankful it didn’t end.
“Twenty years ago we did this,” explained Wilkins. “We never imagined we’d be doing this 20 years later.”
Wilkins said the meal has always been a team effort, with many folks pitching in. The group which puts it together spans across belief boundaries; some who are religious help out, and some who volunteer aren’t religious. The effort spans across racial lines, and multiple generations are involved.
“We have people who have had kids who have helped since they were three or five years old,” said Wilkins. “Some people’s grandchildren are now helping.”
The efforts to provide the community meal also breech geographic borders. It wasn’t only Mount Airy, Surry County or even North Carolina residents serving turkey and stuffing on Thursday.
Jack Campbell, who is originally from Mount Airy, made the trip to Mount Airy from the Washington D.C. area.
“This was an appropriate way to spend Thanksgiving because we’ve been given so much,” said Campbell. “This is a great way to give back.”
“I Googled things to do in Mount Airy on Thanksgiving,” said Campbell’s sister, Mary Campbell-Boggs, who travelled from Kentucky. “This was what came up.”
Boggs seemed happy with her search results though.
“It has been very rewarding,” said Boggs. “It’s a real opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus — an opportunity to help people in need.”
There were plenty of people to help. Wilkins said people began to fill the fellowship hall at the North Main Street church at about 11 a.m. They took a seat, and servers got them drinks before serving the meal, which was set to begin at noon.
“It was packed,” remarked Wilkins.
As of about 1 p.m. on Thursday, more than 200 people had already been served at the meal, according to Wilkins. The dinner was set to wrap up at 3 p.m.
Wilkins said the community’s response in support of the meal has been impressive. Many individuals donated food and money, and local businesses were quick to donate.
She hopes the meal will continue for many years to come. Prior to Wilkins taking on the bulk of the responsibilities associated with the meal a couple years ago, Melva Houston-Tucker ran point for the meal.
One day Wilkins will hang up her apron too.
“One of these days I’ll retire and pass it along to somebody else,” said Wilkins.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.