Instead of gathering around the table this Thanksgiving, volunteers came out to M&M Down Home Catering off Athens Street in Gainesville to feed around 700 people in need.
Martha Randolph, owner of the business, said Thursday marked the eighth year for the community feed, which she started.
“God has blessed us, so you’ve got to give back,” Randolph said on Thanksgiving, while preparing meals. “I don’t care how little it is or how big it is, give.”
Throughout the day, boxes of Thanksgiving meals — including smoked chicken, gravy, green beans, ham, rolls and dessert — were transported by volunteers to Angel House of Georgia, the Salvation Army, Gateway Domestic Violence Center, Set Free Gainesville and various local senior homes. At the catering business, volunteers set up a drive-thru where people could pick up free meals while staying in their vehicles.
Randolph said a few weeks ago that she wasn’t sure if she’d have enough donations to feed hundreds of people in need, but local residents, businesses, nonprofits and churches stepped up. She said some of their biggest donations came from the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, Gainesville Islamic Cultural Center, Mar-Jac Poultry, Cargill and St. Paul United Methodist Church.
Roshuanda Merritt, Randolph’s niece, said people who visited the drive-thru seemed grateful to receive a free meal on Thanksgiving. She said several noted that they had been out of work.
“My aunt has been doing this for many years, so it’s a family tradition for us,” Merritt said. “We just want to give back. We’re blessed throughout the year. So, why not bless other people?”
Members of the Omega Psi Phi Athens-Gainesville chapter showed up at M&M Down Home Catering as early as 4:30 a.m. to start smoking the chicken.
Joe Britte Jr. said his fraternity, which strives to serve the community, has been helping out at the Thanksgiving event for around six years. He said he cherishes the interactions he has with those in need.
“They’ve been grateful, gracious, everything you can think of,” Britte said. “It’s just heartwarming to know that we’re giving back to folks that don’t have the food. They can come here, get a plate or two or three.”
Good News at Noon also held its annual Thanksgiving Community Meal Thursday. Since 1987, the shelter and ministry in Gainesville has opened its doors to feed those in need for the holiday. Representatives from Good News at Noon could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Other groups also worked to feed families in need this Thanksgiving, including Hispanic Alliance, which handed out food to the second highest number of people it had since May in a drive-thru distribution.