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In tough times, a feast to be thankful for

on November 26, 2010

Gordon Stone (left) says that it's been decades since he bussed tables. "I almost lost a tray earlier, but I caught it," he says.

They had their choice of all the classics: Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn, rice and gravy, salad and more. There was cake for dessert.

It was all for the asking at  the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program’s Souper Center kitchen.About 300 diners, many of them homeless, gave their Thanksgiving orders to one of the dozens of eager volunteers in green aprons.

According to Executive Director Art Hatchett,  they cooked 35 turkeys and hundreds of potatoes. Volunteers started preparing the food Monday.  Normally they serve cafeteria style, he said, but on Thanksgiving day,  they do a sit down meal with table service.

Although there was no pumpkin pie, there was cake to finish off the meal and satisfy a sweet tooth.

“These folks don’t get waited on too often, I suppose. It’s kind of cool,” said Gordon Stone, who volunteers at the Souper Center every Saturday with his wife, Suzi. “I get more back from these folks than I give.”

Darrell and Delores Algeré sat back after they finished their meals, and Delores reminisced about the ribs her father grilled for Thanksgiving.

“I’d be sitting by that barbecue and as soon as he walked away I’d grab it and he’d come back and I’d be licking my fingers,” she said. “I could not wait.”

“Things are really sad these days, the economy is getting better they say, but it’s hard on people still,” Darrell said, “but I’m still blessed because I woke up today. Even if I can’t make a dime, I still woke up.”

What does it take to feed three hundred people Thanksgiving dinner? Thirty-five turkeys, countless potatoes, pounds of corn and about ninety volunteers, says Arthur Hatchett, the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program's director.

Down the table from the Algerés, Z. Kim said a prayer before digging in. She said she had much to be thankful for: Her youngest son had a scholarship and was going to college after having trouble in school for years, her oldest son had a job working for Apple in Hawaii. She was getting ready to start computer classes to train for a new career.

After growing up in Alameda County, she said she moved to Richmond because the services for lower-income people were better.

“Richmond is a refuge,” she said. She counts that as a blessing too.

As the meal ended at one o’clock, the visitors gave a round of applause for their cooks and servers, and trickled out, bellies full and smiling.

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