COLUMBIA — Community members gathered Monday morning for the first Poor Man's Community Breakfast since former City Councilwoman Almeta Crayton's death.
Volunteers stepped up to carry on the event, which Crayton hosted for the past 20 years.
The breakfast took place at St. Luke United Methodist Church on Ash Street. The fellowship hall was crowded, and it was hard to walk through without bumping into hugging friends.
Bobby Bell and Eugene Robinson sat at one of the ten tables, enjoying a spread of bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy. It was the first time for both men to attend the breakfast, which they heard about through their men's group, Noble Spirits.
"I didn't need to get up to cook this morning since I knew I was gonna eat here," Bell said, biting into a strip of bacon.
Crayton's brother Anthony Crayton, who lives in St. Louis, was posted near the entrance, welcoming guests with handshakes and smiles. This was Crayton's first time being involved in the breakfast, but he said he thought it was going well.
"Almeta always told me over the phone that there was always a nice turnout," Crayton said.
The breakfast was entirely free to guests but donations were accepted to support Almeta Crayton's community programs. Leftovers from the breakfast were being delivered to shelters in the area.
Volunteers from a variety of organizations, including Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and Noble Spirits, helped staff the event.
Raven Wright, MU senior and member of Delta Sigma Theta, was stationed at the pastries.
"This is my first year volunteering, since I'm new in the sorority," Wright said. "People look so happy to be here, and I'm happy to be helping. It's such a great event for the community."
The breakfast intentionally falls on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which leaders have encouraged to be used as a day of service.
"At first, there were more volunteers than people here for breakfast," Delta Sigma Theta sorority member Susan Cason said. "It just goes to show that everyone wants to help."
Community involvement activist DeeDee Jackson is on the planning committee for the breakfast.
"I decided to step up on the forefront this year," Jackson said. "Almeta was my mentor. We needed people to step up, to keep her legacy going. It's what she would have wanted."
Jackson said Crayton's vision was very similar to Dr. King's vision of equality.
"She believed in people," Jackson said. "She believed in helping your fellow neighbor. She believe in helping the poor and underprivileged. It's all about coming together and breaking bread."
The breakfast, originally a community gathering to celebrate Dr. King, is now a lasting reminder of Almeta Crayton's civil service and impact on Columbia.
"We're not going to stop," Anthony Crayton said. "I'll be coming in from St. Louis every year to make sure it happens. It's a good legacy."
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