Hundreds of people in need received a warm meal Wednesday, thanks to the generosity of volunteers, organizations and businesses across east Alabama.
The food was part of an annual event called the Community Wide Thanksgiving Dinner organized by Sylacauga’s Promise, an initiative of SAFE Family Services Center (SAFE). Margaret Morton, executive director of SAFE, said the annual dinner started in 2003 as a way to serve those in need on Thanksgiving.
“We identified food insecurity as a real challenge,” Morgan said. “We began to put together opportunities to make sure people had what they needed.”
The Thanksgiving dinner grew to more than 3,000 meals before the COVID-19 pandemic forced Morton and her team in 2020 to change the format. Volunteers now pre-package and deliver the hot meal on Thanksgiving Eve.
“We had to pivot,” Morton said. “We raise the funds to make it happen and then we have restaurants across the county that are each providing 100 to 150 meals for us to deliver out.”
Food was prepared Wednesday morning at Coosa Valley Medical Center, August’s BBQ, Faye’s Home Cooking & BBQ, Booker’s BBQ and Batter Up. Dozens of volunteers then gathered at August’s BBQ, Batter Up, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church and Sylacauga Chamber of Commerce to organize the food and distribute it, including several Alabama Power employees who volunteered their time through the Alabama Power Service Organization.
“We’re excited to be able to do this,” said Andrea Ellis, customer service manager of Alabama Power’s business office in Oak Grove and Dadeville. “With the people that you visit, you may be the only smile they see that day. I’m proud to be able to do this.”
Alabama Power customer service representative Tamara Dunn said this was her first year to serve as a volunteer for the dinner. She was excited to help.
“It’s a great way to help them,” she said. “This is Thanksgiving. It’s a time we spend with family and friends, and there’s some people who just don’t have that opportunity. Just being that one person they can see and bring a smile to their face means a lot to me.”
Morton said she’s thankful for everyone’s support.
“I believe that we are called to serve. When you see the looks on the faces of these individuals, when you see people going out – and sometimes these may be the only people they see over the Thanksgiving holiday – that’s the reason we do it.”
SAFE is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to provide meaningful opportunities for families to contribute to the growth of the community and to promote community cohesion. To learn more about SAFE and how to support the annual Community Wide Thanksgiving Dinner, visit safefamilyservicescenter.com.