For the past 35 years, Brown County residents have worked together on a holiday event that’s become a tradition. But the 36th annual Community Thanksgiving Feast scheduled for Thursday, November 28 at Howard Payne University’s Mabee Center is an annual celebration that began with a hope and a prayer.
When first envisioned, the luncheon faced several hurdles. First, where will enough volunteers be found on a holiday to help serve? Actually, that was never a problem. Dozens of volunteers enjoy helping out in the dining room or delivering meals, and this event has become a custom for many families. They simply arrive at 10:30 a.m., then lunch is served between 11 and 1.
A more important concern facing planners through the years has been, where will be money be found to pay for the food? That question has been repeatedly answered thanks to the generosity of local residents.
Such faith has always been rewarded even as contributions cycled up and down. When the feast was a new initiative, more than enough donations were received during each November, so the dollars needed for the following year were already in hand. However, as years passed, the surplus dwindled. I remember one year when a special appeal was needed to ensure that the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner could go forward. Donors made certain that it happened.
Brown County residents show their generosity in numerous ways, and they always seem to come through with flying colors. Their ongoing support of the annual feast each Thanksgiving Day has been substantial enough that usually, all it takes is an annual reminder that the planners need donations in order to make it possible.
According to information released earlier this month, expenses from last year’s lunch pretty much left the Feast’s pantry almost bare, financially speaking. Bill Fishback, who has been serving in the volunteer position of event coordinator for years, said the 2018 dinner ended $35 short. Then, on Monday after Thanksgiving, a check for $50 arrived in the mail.
You don’t have to be a math expert to realize that this year’s Feast started out with a balance of $15 to pay the $5,700 needed to cover food costs for approximately 2,000 meals. Nevertheless, the event moves forward in faith, because community support has kept the Feast alive through even greater challenges across the years.
Local residents have many options to help our neighbors who don’t have enough to eat, not only over the holidays, but during every month of the year. Good Samaritan Ministries and Salvation Army’s Loaves and Fishes are two that come to mind. They deserve our ongoing support.
But the Community Thanksgiving Feast offers more than just a delicious meal on Thanksgiving Day. Fellowship and dignity are on the menu, as well.
Everybody is invited to this meal. No one is left out. If you don’t have anything to contribute, come. If you have some cash to spare and want to donate that, come. If you have the resources to dine at the finest restaurant in Texas but would be dining alone, come. If you have somewhere else to be next Thursday but like seeing this continue, send a gift and be present in spirit.
Food has a way of bringing people together, especially at Thanksgiving, whether it’s families, communities, friends, or strangers. Across this Thanksgiving table, we have an opportunity to share in fellowship and community.
It’s heartbreaking to think about people who go hungry in our land of plenty, but it is no less heartbreaking to think about people who will be forced to eat by themselves because they are alone or forgotten.
The Community Thanksgiving Feast provides us a way to share our blessings with others who may not be as fortunate, and to do so with a side order of dignity, friendship, and conversation. These emotional gifts we give each other — whether rich or poor — are no less important than the meal we share.
There’s no better way to preview the Christmas season.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.