Many free Thanksgiving meals offered around town for community gathering
Delta Digital News Service
Friday, December 1, 2023
By Avery Jones | Editor
JONESBORO, Ark. — This Thanksgiving, some local small businesses and nonprofit organizations offered free community Thanksgiving meals open to all in Jonesboro. These events are hosted for the homeless, those without family, those without the money for a Thanksgiving meal, or simply those who want to engage with the community.
The Hope House, a nonprofit organization that provides for the homeless and low-income population, hosted a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, November 16, from 11 AM to 1 PM and then 2 PM to 4 PM. The event was held at their location.
“Our goal is…to be able to be a blessing to those in the community who may be struggling at this time to just have a simple Thanksgiving meal, especially for those who are less fortunate,” said Terri James, the director of Hope House. “Sometimes those of us who are blessed, we kind of get [blind], and we just don’t realize how fortunate we are. To be able to give back to the community is also a way we can say thank you for supporting the Hope House.”
However, the event wasn’t intended just for those less fortunate, but for anyone who wanted to come and partake. They hoped to feed at least 200 to 250 people. They had at least twenty-five volunteers helping out, five of which were staff members at Hope House, but more were welcome to help.
This was the first time the Hope House was able to host a community Thanksgiving. The meal was entirely arranged by them and provided for by donations from the local community.
They planned to serve chicken, ham, dressing, green beans, corn, potato salad, macaroni salad, and desserts. Carry-out was offered for anyone who was unable to stay.
The city of Jonesboro arranged a community Thanksgiving at the St. Bernards Auditorium on Thanksgiving day starting at 10:30 “for the hungry, the homeless, and the lonely,” according to the event’s Facebook page. Home delivery within the city limits was offered for anyone who couldn’t come.
The food was provided by members of the community. Donations for non-refrigerated desserts were taken from 1 to 5:30 PM on the Wednesday before. Volunteers arrived at 9:30 the next morning, and anyone was welcome to help without former notice.
The Jonesboro community Thanksgiving has been hosted almost every year since at least 2014. They usually serve around 1,800 or more meals, with around 1,200 of those being home delivery. The amount of volunteers varies between 500 to 750.
The VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) in Jonesboro hosted a Thanksgiving at their location on Thanksgiving day from 12 to 2 PM. They have hosted community Thanksgivings for many years.
According to Kay Baker, who works at the VFW, the purpose of the meal was to offer to everyone who doesn’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving an opportunity for friendship and fellowship. The meal was not just for veterans, but for everyone who wanted to participate.
The food was provided for by donations from the community of food and funds, as well as from fundraisers. Most of the food was donated directly, and the food was prepared by volunteers at the location that day.
“There is a big turnout. There’s a lot of veterans that have no place to go and a lot of other people that don’t have a place to go, so they come here,” Baker said.
They served turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, rolls, and desserts. To-go plates were offered for anyone who was unable to stay.
Marie Turner, owner of Billie Marie’s Auction, hosted a community Thanksgiving at her store on Thanksgiving day from 3 to 5 PM. This was her first time hosting a meal, but she has given out Thanksgiving boxes before.
“I always wanted to serve hot meals to people on Thanksgiving, [but] was never able to until this year, and I am so excited,” Turner said.
According to Turner, the event was for anyone who needed a hot meal or was alone on Thanksgiving, and also for any police officers or EMTs that were on duty during Thanksgiving and in need of a meal. She arranged the event herself, using donations from family, friends, and customers.
They had at least fourteen volunteers helping with the meal, including some of her family members. Delivery in the Jonesboro area was offered for anyone who needed it; they already had fifty deliveries scheduled by November 15. They served turkey, dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkin pie, rolls, and tea.
Note: Feature photo by Ana Maltez on Unsplash.
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Local nonprofits and businesses offer free Thanksgiving meals. Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council