Originally created 11/25/99

Turkey giveaway draws hundreds



There was a long table lined with frozen turkeys and an even longer line of people waiting outside to receive them.

But of more than 600 people who stood in line Wednesday at Dyess Park, none went home without a bird for Thanksgiving -- courtesy of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

"An event like this means giving back to the community," said Mr. Brown, who has been giving out turkeys for five years. "I have grown up with a lot of these people, and I have seen a lot of the younger ones grow up. I have much love for the kids."

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Mr. Brown, with the help of area businesses and elected officials, made it possible for people such as Ernestine Gathers to enjoy her holiday. "I don't have enough money to buy a turkey," Ms. Gathers said. "It's a good deal for people who can't afford to have a Thanksgiving meal."

James Brown Enterprises, with the help of sponsors such as Kroger, Sheraton Augusta Hotel, Partridge Inn, Sun Trust Bank and others, bought turkeys for Wednesday's event. Two lines formed early in the morning as people waited for their turkeys. For some, the wait lasted several hours.

"The only thing I would change is the wait," said Mamie McKenzie, 39, of Augusta, who had been waiting in line since 9 a.m. "But you know what, my boys love to eat, so it's worth the wait."

Ms. McKenzie, who came with her sons, Cameron, 4, Jessie, 5, and Scooter, 9, said having the strength to take care of her children was the one thing she was most thankful for.

"I came last year," she said, "but this year, there is more spirit."

The spirit of this year's turkey giveaway could be attributed to a soulful performance from The Suwanee Quintet. The group sang gospel songs that had the crowd raising their hands and cheering. Mr. Brown joined in, taking the microphone and screaming his signature yell to the cheers of the crowd.

Augusta Mayor Bob Young had a front-row view of the performance.

"This is probably one of the most emotional days in Augusta," Mr. Young said. "This may be the best thing these people have to eat all year."

Mr. Young rolled up his sleeves and helped pass out the turkeys. He brought his grandson, Chad, 3, with him to the event.

"I don't really know if Chad understands what's going on today," Mr. Young said. "But I hope this will be a good experience for him."

Chad handed out the first turkey of the event. Richmond County Fire Chief Ronnie Few said his department donated 20 turkeys,

"I try to come back every year and help hand out the turkeys," Chief Few said.

Reach Barnini Chakraborty at (706) 823-3332 or newsroom@augustachronicle.com