November 10, 2012 9:53:41 PM
Sarah Fowler - email@example.com
As the Thanksgiving season approaches, grocery stores begin stocking their shelves with cranberry sauce. Gift shops and florists will hang signs in their store windows proclaiming, "Give Thanks."
For a group of local people, making sure every family has something to be thankful for is at the top of their list. Specifically, they want to make sure every family has a home-cooked meal on Thanksgiving Day.
What started as a few women cooking turkeys in their kitchens in 1994 has turned into a community-wide effort that now operates out of Stokes-Beard Elementary School.
The annual Thanksgiving dinner delivery program for seniors and disabled citizens was founded by Annie Barry and several of her friends from Ward 1.
Barry and her friends fed 50 people those first few years. Now, 17 Thanksgivings later, Barry says more than 1,000 Columbus residents receive a home-cooked meal from the group.
The program operates strictly on donations and the generosity of volunteers willing to help serve their neighbors.
Barry said they are asking community members to donate turkeys to ensure that every person who has signed up for the program won't go without.
While the program has yet to receive a single donated turkey, Barry is optimistic.
"It's going to work," she said. "It just takes us getting out there and making it work."
In addition, Barry is encouraging people to donate their time or money.
The Columbus Police Department has partnered with the effort, and the Salvation Army confirmed they will donate food as well.
Donated turkeys can be dropped off at the Columbus Police Department Monday through Thursday and at the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority on Friday.
Barry encouraged people to help volunteer that day.
"It's a humanitarian effort," she said. "You're offering a two-fold service to the elderly, the disabled. They get a meal, plus they get a visit. A lot of them live alone. I would hope people would want to (volunteer)."
Barry said she hopes the tradition, started by a few people, will grow into a much larger tradition.
"We've been doing this for the past 18 years," she said. "This is an effort we feel is worthy to be continued."
Volunteers are encouraged to call Peggy Barksdale at 662-329-4935 to sign up. On Thanksgiving, volunteers meet in the cafeteria of Stokes-Beard at 8 a.m. to begin packing the meals for delivery.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.