Volunteers give thanks this month

Published 7:33 pm Friday, November 22, 2013

On Thanksgiving morning, when most of Bainbridge households are getting up and starting to roast, smoke or fry their turkeys and fix their casseroles, there are at least 250 others who come to the First United Methodist Church at 9 a.m. to volunteer to fix and deliver Thanksgiving dinner plates to those who are shut-ins or alone.
This small-town tradition began approximately 30 years ago when Mayo Livingston sat around his family Thanksgiving table counting his blessings while being acutely aware that there were many in the community who were not having a Thanksgiving dinner.
He began to plan that the next year those who were elderly, alone, shut-ins, or ill would have a hot Thanksgiving dinner delivered to them. He gathered together some of his buddies — Benny Brookins, Charlie Burch, Larry Miles, John Monk, Oscar Dewberry to name a few — to help him and they continue to be involved to this date.  Reminder calls to the men evoke such answers as, “If I ain’t dead I’ll be there.”
When the project first began Mayo Livingston contracted with Winn Dixie to cook all the food. It is recalled that at that time the supermarket did not have enough pots and pans to prepare the meals, so the women employees divvied up the food and took it to their homes to cook.
Now it is prepared in the Winn-Dixie deli kitchen by two women who stay all night on Wednesday to cook it. Claire Craddock, Winn-Dixie manager, said they cook and slice 56 turkey breasts, 95 lbs. of sweet potatoes and 88 pounds of green beans.
Mayo’s son, Joe Livingston, who has taken over the organization and planning, picks up the food up early Thursday morning and takes it to the church.
The volunteers prepare 400 plates of turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, gravy, green beans.
Each plate also gets a piece of pumpkin pie baked and donated by Stevie and Margie Jones of the Pond House Restaurant.
Joe said the people receiving the plates are identified through various churches, hospices, and word of mouth.
The list of volunteers has grown over the years and the line of people now extends clear around the A.O. Smith dining room and out the door. Many of them are families who come together to help fill the plates and deliver them. They tell others, “This is how we start our Thanksgiving.”
“Because the same people have been doing this for so long, everyone knows what to do. We have this down to a system,” says Joe, who adds, “We’ll be out of there in an hour and a half.”
Asked what it means to him to do this, Joe replied, “I work at it for three days straight before the big day, and when it is all done and I am having my own Thanksgiving afternoon I am even more thankful for the blessings in my life.”
You can be sure of one thing, God willing, Mayo Livingston will be there overseeing the whole process he began so many years ago.