Scenic City Thanksgiving: Chattanooga kitchen feeds hungry; walkers aid homeless

Scenic City Thanksgiving: Chattanooga kitchen feeds hungry; walkers aid homeless

November 23rd, 2012 by Kevin Hardy in Local Regional News

Thousands of people fill Market Street in downtown Chattanooga on Thursday morning during the Grateful Gobbler Walk, an event that benefits the Chattanooga Homeless Coalition.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

Alice and Kenneth Danley eat their Thanksgiving meal at the Community Kitchen on 11th Street in downtown Chattanooga.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

Vanessa Draeger, left, and Gerry Kirk wear turkey hats at the Grateful Gobbler Walk.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

As most families sat down in front of turkey to give thanks, dozens gave their time Thursday at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.

About half of the 150 or so volunteers who signed up to serve turkey, pour iced tea and visit with the homeless and downtrodden are regulars, making a tradition of Thanksgiving and Christmas at the Community Kitchen.

"After the first or second time, you almost become like a family," said volunteer Jim Greasby. "Even the workers here -- they do become part of your family."

Greasby and Mark Williams are regular volunteers at the kitchen. And they've made a habit of coming every Thanksgiving.

Williams said he's drawn to help because of how the community rallies around the charity. He pointed out the Community Kitchen receives no federal funds and is supported solely through donations and volunteers.

"They don't have to do what they do," he said. "It's just the goodness of everybody here."

Food service director Faith McKenna Morgan expected 50 to 75 volunteers just to show up on Thursday looking to help.

"I don't turn anybody away," she said. "I try to find something for everybody to do, even if it's just sitting down with clients."

Morgan said she prepared for weeks for the big turkey dinner, which was served with green beans, sweet potatoes, dressing, rolls, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. She said the kitchen served about 300 meals by midday and expected to serve as many as 1,000 by day's end.

To do that, she had to collect and prepare about 200 turkeys, 2,000 rolls and 20 cases of pumpkin pie.

For Kenneth and Alice Danley, the day was about more than just a hot meal. They broke bread at the same place they met more than a year ago.

Kenneth said he was hurt at a young age, and he receives only a small disability check. And Alice was run ragged after losing her mother and her home.

"A homeless person came to her rescue," Kenneth joked.

The two met at the Community Kitchen, which provided toothbrushes, shoes and coats along with support and encouragement.

"This was our place," Alice said.

The Danleys married last November and said they now live in downtown public housing.

"We just trusted in God and he provided," Alice said. "And so did the Community Kitchen."