From left, Salvation Army director Jennifer Graham, Dorothy Hubbard, CPD Community Relations Officer Rhonda Sanders and Annie Barry discuss plans for this year's Turkey Drive at the Salvation Army on Saturday. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
November 6, 2017 9:52:15 AM
When Columbus resident Annie Barry began preparing Thanksgiving meals to take to the city's elderly and disabled residents back in 1994, she only to made about 50 plates.
This year, she expects to make about 1,600 -- with the help of Columbus Police Department and, for the first time, the Salvation Army.
The Turkey Drive has become a Columbus tradition, Barry and CPD Community Relations Officer Rhonda Sanders said. Every Thanksgiving, they and about 100 volunteers from the Lowndes County area gather at Stokes Beard Elementary School to put together meals of turkey and dressing, corn, string beans and sweet potatoes or cake.
Barry, Sanders and Salvation Army Commander Jennifer Graham are already taking names and addresses from the Columbus Housing Authority, medical professionals and apartment complexes. As some volunteers prepare the plates, others will make deliveries.
This year, about 200 meals will be set aside for families or individuals who are in need but able to make the trip to Stokes Beard, Sanders said. Those are the people who would normally go to Salvation Army for food on Thanksgiving.
Sanders and Graham, who recently took over Salvation Army operations in Columbus, came up with the idea to combine forces on the turkey drive at a brainstorming lunch at Huck's Restaurant.
"I feel like it's what the community in any state or any city needs, where everyone come together and work together in unity for the healing of every community," Graham said. "... Because when you have a healthy community, you have healthy families. When you have healthy families, you have healthy community leaders, you have healthy community activists.
"I think (this is) a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that, especially for our youth," she added.
Barry said the delivery volunteers are sometimes the only company many of the elderly get on Thanksgiving Day.
"Back in '94 when we started it, I was fortunate to have family," she said. "But a lot of the people did not have anybody. And to know that someone's going to actually bring you a meal and visit ... that makes it all worth it."
Dorothy Hubbard, who has volunteered with the drive for the last four or so years, said when volunteers make their deliveries, the people receiving the meals are waiting for them at the door or even on street corners.
"They're waiting for you on the corner in a pack," she said. "And they have gotten used to it, and it would be a loss if we couldn't continue."
For veteran volunteers like Hubbard and Barry, the Turkey Drive has become part of their own personal holiday traditions.
"I've done it so long, it's just part of my -- our -- family's Thanksgiving," she said. "My family's coming in from Virginia and Georgia and they know -- even my grandchildren know -- what we will be doing Thanksgiving morning. We'll be at Stokes Beard School."
To submit the name of an elderly or disabled person in need of a meal, call CPD at 662-244-3510 or 662-244-3528 or contact the Salvation Army at 662-327-5137.
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