By Joey McWilliams
DURANT – People in the community who were treated to an additional opportunity for a Thanksgiving meal again this year.
Back for a second year, the Donald W. Reynolds Community Center and Library hosted the Be Thankfull dinner on Tuesday afternoon with nearly 400 people served.
Jennifer Steen, who along with friend Taylor Dougherty started the event last November, said she was excited about the way things turned out.
“It’s just grown into this ‘bigger than itself’ event,” Steen said. “It’s community and friends and family and strangers just coming together and providing a meal for the community.
“We started at 4:00 today because last year 5:30 was too late. So we started about an hour and a half earlier this year and it’s just been crazy this year.”
Robben Tonubbee, library director, talked about the effort and all of the people who were blessed.
“We served probably 350 people, including volunteers,” Tonubbee said. “And with carry-outs, they served about 400 plates. We had turkey, ham and everything that goes with it. It was all from people in the community. We had a couple of businesses donate, too. Pruitt’s provided all the bread.
“We were slated to go until about 8 p.m., but we were out of food by about 6:30. I think next year, we’ll have to alter that ending to about 7. They were lined up outside the door by 3:30. 4:00-4:20 was the longest 20 minutes of my life. About 5:15, someone asked me what time it was, and I thought it has to be about 6:00 and I looked and it was 5:15.”
Additionally, it was not lost on Tonubbee the gratitude that was shown.
“Hundreds of people came and this year it seemed that there were more ‘Thank you’s and people who said, ‘How about next year, I come and help serve.’ And I have a friend who is homeless right now and he hung around and swept and wiped tables. He said he just felt like he needed to do something.
“There’s a lot of negatively with some of the people in the community about people who are homeless and people in need and trying to lump them all into one pot and give them all one characteristic. But when you have an event like this, I cried in the car on the way home – it’s just good. It does your heart good. And you wish those people had been here last night or will be at Families Feeding Families when it raining and 40º.
That which was left over was given to Families Feeding Families for the dinner to take place on Thanksgiving Day. Steen said she hopes to make it an annual gathering.
“We just appreciate everybody for helping and donating things when we asked and we want to do this every year.”