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Locals provide holiday meals ‘to go’

Early Thanksgiving morning  many homemakers in Bainbridge will be putting their own turkeys in the oven to roast before they head off to the First United Methodist Church to help load up food plates for distribution. It will also find the crew of Winn Dixie, who worked all night cooking, finishing up their chores and having the food ready for delivery by 7 a.m.

This Thanksgiving tradition begun in 1987, when Mayo Livingston wanted to help shut-ins and those less fortunate have a good Thanksgiving dinner. It has grown and continues 30 years later, thanks to many volunteers and the continuing cooperation of Winn Dixie personnel. It also includes the participation of Steve Jones, owner of the Pond House, who donates the pies and rolls.

Mayo’s son Joe has now assumed the responsibility of coordinating the event. He recalls that when it first started, Winn Dixie was new and they didn’t have enough utensils to do the cooking at the store.

Employees took food home to cook and brought it back to be packaged.

Marvin Ligon has been manager of the Bainbridge Winn-Dixie for two years. He says he has been with Winn Dixie for 25 years and has never seen anything like this. “On every level, I’ve never seen a town come together and do what they do like they do in Bainbridge. I am definitely on board with it.”

He praised his staff of Katina Ward, Kenneth Kelly, Jason Varnadore and Georgia Milton for their efforts in doing the over-night cooking of at least 12 large turkeys and several hams, plus the side dishes.

Two of the really active volunteers are Roger and Judy Ivey, members of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, who will pick up and deliver over 160 plates of food to the migrant worker camps, trailer parks and others they know are in need. They became involved with the event about seven years ago in conjunction with a mission they have with the camps. Judy says, “Thanksgiving Day for us is crazy,” explaining the migrants don’t know from one day to the next where they will be, while many of the families with school age children stay behind. She said for the last six years they have been focused on the migrant families.

Originally, the referrals for recipients came from the churches, but now the majority of the names come through the schools, according to Livingston.

An assembly line of people loading the plates is overseen by Bennie Brookins, Greg Burch, Steve Reynolds, Ward Cole and John Monk, with Greg Burch being the one in charge of the kitchen. Approximately 30-40 drivers, organized by Ward Cole, will deliver the plates to the homes.

While Mr. Mayo may still come out to see how things are going, his son Joe has things well in hand.

“We will put together over 420 plates this year,” he said, adding how it could never be done without the cooperation of the whole community.