COLUMBIA — As Thanksgiving approaches, the Everyone Eats food drive still needs turkeys and other food for its baskets.
Everyone Eats, now in its 15th year, is a food drive that provides food baskets to needy families in the Columbia area. The program also includes a walk-in Thanksgiving meal at Stephens College. Former First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton started the food drive when she was a single, working mother who wanted to help others like she had been helped.
To ensure that everyone who signed up for a basket receives a turkey, Crayton said Everyone Eats will need to receive an additional 500 to 700 turkeys before Tuesday evening.
And "we need all the sides and trimmings to go with it," Crayton said.
"It's tough times out there for everybody," Danny Spry Jr., a Columbia firefighter, said. "We've got a lot of people that are signing up for these baskets that are in need."
Spry was on hand at St. Luke United Methodist Church to help with the donations. Trailers of food were being delivered to the church, and volunteers filled paper sacks with food, including celery, potatoes, canned goods and eggs.
Registered families began picking up baskets at noon Monday. People sat in the sanctuary waiting for Crayton and two other volunteers to call their names, so they could pick up their bundles.
Eugene Robinson, who signed up last week, waited for nearly an hour to pick up the fixings for the meal he will share with his girlfriend's family and his two children.
"I love it," Robinson said, "I think it's something the community is really doing good to help the people."
As food was handed out, donations rolled in. Mark Mills, a Columbia resident and frequent donor, dropped off six turkeys Monday afternoon.
"It's kind of an amazing thing that (Crayton) is able to do as much as she does, and helping out is very important," Mills said.
Kentrell Minton, a longtime volunteer for the program, has been picking up food for the baskets.
"I'm pretty much going to be running all day if need be," Minton said.
Crayton is expecting a large turnout for the Thanksgiving dinner at Stamper Commons at Stephens College. Justin White, the food service director for Fresh Ideas at Stephens College, will be volunteering with his family at the dinner on Thursday. During the meal, containers to donate nonperishable items will be placed outside Stamper Commons, White said.
"How can you better celebrate the true meaning of this holiday than helping people in need?" he said.
Minton said he expects the program to serve 1,000 to 1,700 baskets of food this season, so donations are needed.
"We definitely need more turkeys," he said.
Monetary and food donations for the baskets will be accepted up until 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Luke United Methodist Church, 204 E. Ash St.
On Wednesday, Crayton said donations for the Thanksgiving dinner can be dropped off at her home, 409 Oak St. or at Stamper Commons, where volunteers will be preparing the meal. Crayton prefers only nonperishable items at her home.
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