November 30, 2013 9:13:37 PM
Something in the air changes as the first leaves begin to fall and the holiday season nears; we began to pay closer attention to things we take for granted the rest of the year. One of those things, the generosity of this community and its willingness to work together for a greater good, was made clear to me on Thursday.
On Thanksgiving morning, I volunteered at Stokes-Beard Elementary School for a community effort that provides a warm meals to those in need. What began as four women working out of a small kitchen on Southside in 1994 has grown into a city-wide movement that feeds over 1,200 people. As volunteer for the past several years, I have seen participation grow just a little bit more than the year before. So this year, when I walked in the door and saw hundreds of volunteers lined up, I wasn't surprised.
What did surprise me however, was the diverse group of people present. From the elderly women washing dishes in the kitchen to the young firefighters delivering food, everyone was working side-by-side to provide for those less fortunate. The production line moved like a well-oiled machine. I just stood there in amazement taking it all in.
The lines were long and the process was slow, but everyone seemed to know what needed to be done and without fanfare were doing it. We were motivated knowing there were over a thousand people out there, our fellow citizens, depending on us. In years past, several local politicians have showed up to volunteer, but this year, it seemed to be less of a show-up-to-be-seen event and more of genuine community effort.
It wasn't just people from Columbus who volunteered either. A woman from Macon, who read about the event in the paper, said she had to come help. There was a group of people from Hamilton who said the same thing: They simply wanted to be part of this.
Things seemed to be going smoothly, that is until we ran out of turkey with more than 100 boxes remaining. My heart filled with dread as I thought about the disappointment those counting on us would feel. We stared at one another, wondering what to do.
Then Von Harris and Mayor Robert Smith worked some kind of magic, and we had just enough turkey to fill the last boxes. I still don't know where that turkey came from, but seeing our mayor roll up his sleeves and help fix the problem was an inspiration.
As a reporter, my job is to write about what goes on in our community. Quite often it's not pretty. A steady diet of crime and corruption takes its toll. It's easy to be cynical. Thursday changed that for me. I was so moved and overcome with emotion. I couldn't help but wonder if when Mrs. Annie Barry and her friends were sitting in that kitchen nearly 20 years ago had any idea what they were starting.
To see our community, old and young, rich and poor, black and white, come together made me once again thankful and appreciative to be a resident of Columbus. Regardless of our differences, we come together to help each other when the chips are down. For that, I am so very thankful. Not just to be a resident of Columbus, but to be able to call it home.
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah
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