COLUMBIA — Everyone Eats! had a record turnout Monday, but there was not enough meat for families.
Almeta Crayton, the organizer of the event, said she was overwhelmed by the number of families that showed up at St. Luke United Methodist Church on East Ash Street.
“I’ve never seen it like this before,” Crayton said. “And I mean people are really hurting. We ran out of turkeys so fast.”
At noon Tuesday, volunteers were helping donors bring in food for the baskets.
“What we’re gonna do now is clean up the last of the baskets, so I don’t have to do this tomorrow,” Crayton said.
At 3 p.m, she estimated that 550 baskets had been handed out on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. She said she expected to be accepting donations and handing out baskets until 8 p.m.
Everyone Eats! is a two-part event held annually. Baskets with the fixings for a Thanksgiving meal are available for people who can't afford food but have a place to eat it, and a meal open to everyone is held on Thanksgiving. Applications had to be filled out for the baskets, but there is no registration needed for the meal on Thursday.
On Tuesday, baskets were passed out starting at 1:30 p.m., but several people came 90 minutes early to try to get theirs. Crayton told them they had to come back.
“If we don’t have enough stuff, I don’t want them standing in the line like they did yesterday,” she said. “They think that this stuff just flies in here. … We just don’t have the capacity.”
Crayton was expecting donors to drop off about 90 turkeys for the baskets. They came from people such as John Baker, who brought in 15 turkeys he had planned to donate before hearing about the shortage on Monday.
“People gotta eat on Thanksgiving,” Baker said. “We love Almeta and want to support her and others who need the help."
"Many people are having these kind of celebrations,” Baker continued. “People who can’t are feeling left out of the party. This puts more people at the table to have a Thanksgiving celebration.”
Baker said he is proud to donate to Everyone Eats! but that one donation can’t fix everything.
“You feel good to do that,” Baker said. “It’s not solving the problem. I don’t pretend that it is, but it gives people a sense of joy on a day of the year that they might not have otherwise. That in itself is fulfilling.”
Crayton will start cooking food at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday for the meal on Thursday. She plans to serve 10 large hams and 100 turkeys, and she said she thinks there will be enough food for the Thanksgiving Day meal.
“I’ve never had a shortage — knock on wood,” Crayton said. “The Lord has always blessed us.”
Crayton is still taking donations for the meal. She said food such as cooked food, salads, dinner rolls and desserts are greatly appreciated.
Everyone Eats! will take place from noon to 5 p.m. in Stamper Commons at Stephens College.
“We want to make sure that the students who are not going home know that we’re gonna have dinner Thursday," Crayton said. "And it starts serving at noon, so be there on time.”