While Betty Crawford stirred the bubbling gravy, Lynette Simpkins peeked at the macaroni and cheese in the oven.
They hurried to pass pans of collard greens and stuffing to volunteers who were leaning on the windowsill in their kitchen, tapping their fingers, impatient to serve plates of hot food to hundreds of people waiting in line
“We’ve been cooking up a storm, but we’ve been enjoying ourselves, though,” Crawford said.
Thursday was the annual Feast Before the Feast, a community dinner put on a week before Thanksgiving Day by the Richmond County Council of PTAs and businesses, churches and community leaders.
More than 200 volunteers served food at Cherry Tree Crossing, Olmstead Homes and Oak Pointe Apartments.
Monique Braswell, the council president and a founder of the event, said her team’s goal was to fill bellies while bringing the community together.
“Some of these people are friends; some are friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time; and some people have met new friends here,” she said. “Basically I want them to know people outside of Cherry Tree do care.”
Ashley Golden, a junior at A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School, said most Cherry Tree residents know one another but that the meal was a way to bring people together in a way the public doesn’t always hear about.
“This neighborhood is not as bad as people think,” said Golden, who helped pass out ice tea and lemonade. “Our problems are just publicized more.”
Tabitha Tallington brought her three children to eat turkey, mashed potatoes and yams.
“This means everything,” Tallington said. “There’s a lot of people here that don’t really have family or are able to make a nice dinner.”
Among the three locations volunteers cooked more than 150 turkeys, 200 hams, 300 pounds of cabbage, 2,000 cupcakes and other items – all from scratch.
Braswell said that about 5,800 people were fed.
At Cherry Tree, Pootie Collins sat with friends and a plate of turkey, collard greens and stuffing and said he was overwhelmed by the generosity.
Next year, though, he’s going to be serving plates.
“It was definitely good for everyone,” Collins said. “I loved the food, but I think I would have felt better being on the helping side.”