Church again plans Thanksgiving meal

Published 7:00 pm Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving often brings with it largefamily gatherings and lots of food to go around.

    Jennifer Calhoun knows something about that – on Thanksgiving shewill help feed more than 1,000 people.

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    For five years now, Calhoun has organized and led the Doug SullivanCommunity Thanksgiving Lunch, sponsored by First United MethodistChurch in Brookhaven. The goal is to feed those who might nototherwise enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.

    This includes lots of different kinds of people, such as thosefacing a tight bank account; police officers, sheriff’s deputiesand other emergency personnel working on the holiday; and prisonersin the county jail.

    The menu includes turkey, dressing, green beans, sweet potatocasserole, a roll and a dessert.

    Calhoun said there will be about 800 deliveries on Thanksgiving,beginning about 10 a.m. In total, 1,100 to 1,200 people will be fedby these deliveries.

      “I think it’s a need for thecommunity,” Calhoun said, describing her motivations. She doesn’tbelieve there has been anything in Brookhaven before quite likewhat she organizes.

    The idea came somewhat suddenly to Calhoun five years ago, and shedidn’t wait around.

    “I thought, we could make it happen,” Calhoun said. “We just haveto do it.”

    Calhoun came at the idea on her own, but a community-wideThanksgiving meal had been a vision of another Brookhaven resident:Doug Sullivan.

    Sullivan served as mayor of Brookhaven from 1993 until 1997 anddied in 2007. When Sullivan’s wife Karen found out about Calhoun’sidea, she agreed to help fund it as a tribute to her latehusband.

    And Calhoun’s and Sullivan’s vision has continued in the five yearssince.

    Calhoun can’t do it alone, though. Preparations require the work ofseveral hundred volunteers throughout the week of Thanksgiving,with about 130 needed on Thanksgiving Day alone.

    The generosity of many people and organizations also contributes tothe success of the lunch, Calhoun said. Alexander Junior Highsupplies green beans and Brookhaven High School gives sweetpotatoes.

    Members of First United Methodist also donate money to buy theturkeys, and a lot of turkeys are needed.

    “We’ll cook 65 turkey breasts this year,” Calhoun said.

    When possible, Calhoun likes to see youth from the church getinvolved with the work.

    “It helps them see there’s need in the community,” Calhoun said.”Not everyone lives like they do.”

    She can also count on some recurring volunteers.

    “We have a lot of people that once they come, they’re hooked,”Calhoun said. “They come every year.”

    Work begins early in the week. Calhoun said Monday volunteers willbe chopping vegetables and doing other basic preparations. Tuesdayis the day to cook the cornbread used in the dressing. Tuesdaynight, the turkeys go in the smoker, where they will stay untilThursday morning.

    For Calhoun, the day itself won’t be much of a holiday.

    “It’s my Thanksgiving Day,” Calhoun said.

    She added, laughing, “It used to be a really quiet day for me.”

    Those interested in arranging a delivery should call First UnitedMethodist Church at 601-833-3519.