COLUMBIA — Tough economic times and the closing of Everett’s Restaurant on Rangeline Road have created unexpected complications for the organizers of two charity Thanksgiving dinners.
The Salvation Army and First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton both hold annual Thanksgiving dinners, but this year they say financial trouble has caused an increase in demand for food and a decrease in food donations.
“We had had lots of donations of turkeys before, but this year that’s not been the case,” said Cindy Chapman, the Salvation Army’s regional development director for Columbia and Jefferson City. “I’d say it’s higher prices in the economy. When people have to pay more for gas, utilities and all that, it leaves less income for food.”
The Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving dinner normally serves between 600 and 700 people, Chapman said, but last year’s served 1,029.
Crayton said she’s in need of more food for her Thanksgiving dinner, which will be held at Stephens College’s Stafford Commons. Crayton also organizes the delivery of food baskets to those who can’t go to the dinner on Thanksgiving.
“People have promised to donate food, but it’s not any good until you’ve got it in your hands,” she said.
Crayton said that by this time of the year, she is normally finished shopping for both her dinner and her baskets, but the slowdown in donations has left her far from finished.
“We haven’t even begun to buy the food for the dinner,” she said.
The Salvation Army’s change of venue from Everett’s to Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken, 2316 Paris Road, has also added to the workload.
“With the Salvation Army changing plans, they’re referring people to me for baskets,” Crayton said. “And we usually get around 300 people (at the dinner), but I anticipate that’ll be doubled because the Salvation Army moved, but we’re still downtown. So we’ll be getting some of the people who can’t make it to their dinner.”
Both Crayton and Chapman said they still have hope for successful Thanksgiving dinners. Richard Hauschild, a Salvation Army advisory board member and longtime Thanksgiving dinner volunteer, echoed that sentiment.
“I think part of it is just that Thanksgiving kind of crept up on everyone this year,” Hauschild said. “I’m looking forward to it. People are always grateful. There’s a certain family atmosphere about it when everyone’s in the dining room. This is contributing a little to their quality of life, and it’s personally gratifying.”