COLUMBIA — The Imani Mission Center exceeded all expectations Saturday at its ninth Annual Destiny of Helping Our People Excel Harvest Dinner. The center provides a free Thanksgiving Dinner every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
The idea of a community dinner came to Glenn Cobbins, the center’s community outreach director, while he was in prison nine years ago. Cobbins, who was convicted of several drug-related crimes, said he decided that he was going to find a way to give back to all the families he hurt as a drug dealer.
“Food is a social tool,” Cobbins said. “I just want to feed the people and serve the people.”
Cobbins is also the vice president of Destiny for HOPE , a nonprofit group whose mission is “to empower children and their families in all aspects of everyday living.”
Cobbins isn’t the only person behind the event. Judy Hubbard, director and pastor for the Imani Mission Center, said she has been involved with the Harvest Dinner for the past nine years and is its co-founder along with Cobbins.
Hubbard has seen the event grow from year to year, both in attendance and location. Before the Imani Mission Center offered to host the dinner, Hubbard said they would hold the dinner at various churches or homes offered to them throughout the community.
The Shiloh Christian Fellowship Church, located a block away at 11 E. Worley St., partnered with the Imani Mission Center to simultaneously serve a Thanksgiving dinner at a second location.
“We get excellent help from individuals in this community,” Hubbard said. “People in this town are very generous.”
In addition to offering to host the event, individuals and Columbia businesses donated both their time as volunteers and food for the guests.
Twelve turkeys were donated this year, which helped feed an estimated 400 people. Other Thanksgiving staples included macaroni and cheese, sweet potato pie, green bean casserole and enough dessert to go around.
Hubbard and Cobbins agreed that the Harvest Dinner is a way for the community to bond.
“Grandmas, aunties, moms — everybody pitches in,” Hubbard said about the food preparation. “It really is a community thing, that’s what I love about it.”
Cobbins said he is thankful for the opportunity to serve the community Thanksgiving dinner in their own neighborhood. “They feel at home, that’s the beauty of it,” he said. “I live and die for doing stuff like this.”