Music played, community members danced and prizes were handed out at the third annual Thanksgiving meal hosted by Longview District 3 Councilman Wray Wade.
The event, which was open to the public, started at 11 a.m. at Green Street Recreation Center.
Volunteers moved left and right to prepare the festivities by setting up tables for the chafing pans, lighting chafing fuel and preparing drink cups.
Volunteer Lateefah Pruitt of State Realty Services in Longview said she was nervous for the turnout of the event due to the weather forecast showing a 90% chance of rain.
That didn’t seem to stop people from coming out and enjoying the entertainment.
Gilbert Anderson and Angela McLeod came to the meal after hearing about it on the news. McLeod had attended one previous year but it was Anderson’s first time.
Both of them were looking forward to the fellowship provided by the dinner but also to not having to cook.
Anderson said his favorite dish at Thanksgiving is the giblet gravy and pecan pie, while McLeod said she looks forward to the dressing and sweet potato pie.
Both Anderson and McLeod are ministers for the East Texas Treatment Facility in Henderson and volunteer at other local organizations like the Highway 80 Rescue Mission as well.
Anderson said he likes to help others because it’s an honor and a privilege.
“You can’t put a price on changing a life,” Anderson said. “I thank God for the privilege.”
McLeod said she does it because God has brought her a long way to where she is now.
“I used to be homeless many years ago and I just feel like it’s time for me now to give back to the community,” McLeod said.
Paulette Williams initially had no plans for the holiday other than staying at home and thanking God for being alive, she said.
“I was satisfied with my chicken and dumplings I had,” Williams said with a chuckle.
However, when her husband heard about the dinner on television, she decided she should give it a chance. A decision which she said she’s glad was made.
“I like coming together and I’m grateful to God that he let me live to be able to come out and be a part of it,” Williams said.
She added that everyone that was a part of the event made her feel welcome and invited.
Williams ended up being the first recipient of a door prize for the evening. She won a gift card for being the first person to show up at the event.
“I was tickled when they said ‘Mrs. Paulette gets a gift card, she was the first one in here.’ I felt good,” Williams said.
Various activities such as trivia, bingo and card games were set to take place along with gift card prizes supplied by Pruitt.
Volunteers had many reasons for spending their Thanksgiving helping out at the dinner.
Tasha Evans said this was her first time volunteering at the community Thanksgiving meal and that she heard about it from her friend Melinda Singleton, an employee of Wade’s who was also at the event as a volunteer.
“I just wanted to make a difference, to be a better citizen and to be a better person,” Evans said. “I thought this would be a good way to start.”
Jan Johnson came to volunteer after hearing about it from her niece, Julie Woods, who was in charge of the drink station at the event. Johnson said she loves volunteering and came because she wanted to give back to the community.
“You get to meet people from different walks of life and it’s just major fun,” Johnson exclaimed.
Julie Woods was in attendance volunteering with her husband Quentin Woods and their children.
Julie Woods heard about the event on Facebook and knew she wanted to participate after that. She views volunteer work as a responsibility to the community for all it does for its people.
“It’s so fun and I think it’s great to set an example for the kids to think about other people and not just yourself,” Julie Woods said.
She said the fun atmosphere with the DJ playing music and all the people in attendance made it feel like a party.