COLUMBIA — Bill Sullivan, chef at the Longhorn Steakhouse, roasted 68 turkeys and five hams on Wednesday afternoon for Almeta Crayton's Everybody Eats.
This year will be Sullivan's 16th year cooking for the event.
Former City Council member Almeta Crayton devoted much of her life to service in Columbia, particularly the First Ward. She was perhaps best known for her generosity at Thanksgiving, mustering volunteers to feed anyone who stepped through the door of her Everyone Eats! community dinner. Crayton died Oct. 21. She was 53.
In audio clips from an interview in June, hear Almeta Crayton talk about what she believed in and why she worked so hard.
"I like giving back to the community," he said.
Forty-two of the birds will be served at the Thanksgiving meal on Thursday in Stamper Commons at Stephens College. The remaining turkeys will be donated to local shelters.
Thursday's menu also will include sweet potatoes, cornbread, stuffing, green beans and ham, collard greens with ham and bacon, and corn.
The meal will be served from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and organizers expect between 300 and 500 people, Sullivan said.
He was among nearly 200 volunteers who helped out Wednesday, said Kathy Hull, the volunteer coordinator. A total of 145 signed in, but that number did not include Crayton's family, members of the steering committee who planned the event and community members who just showed up.
Wednesday's volunteers helped prepare the food and set up the dining area. Children decorated paper with crayon drawings of turkeys and Thanksgiving wishes.
Girl Scout Troop 30547 made macaroni and cheese. Members of Alive in Christ Lutheran Church collected more than 1,000 servings of desserts donated by community members.
The meal has special poignancy this year, occurring just a little more than a month after Crayton died on Oct. 21. She had founded the community dinner 16 years ago and was planning this year's event at the time of her death.
Sullivan remembers meeting Crayton 13 years ago at Stephens College where he was then in charge of food service. He noticed that she looked tired. She told him she had been up all night roasting turkeys in a church basement.
Sullivan showed her the Stephens College kitchen. Everybody Eats has been held there ever since.
Organizers say food donations are still welcome Thursday in the Stamper Commons dining room. Volunteers are needed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for serving and clean-up.
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.