This year, volunteers are planning to feed free Thanksgiving meals to 2,000 people, coordinator Cheryl Mosley said.
About 80 percent of those meals are delivered to homes and workplaces, while the rest are served on site at Canton First United Methodist Church.
“We deliver to people who are alone, the elderly, hospitals, firefighters, police officers, EMTs and to people working in the emergency rooms at Northside Cherokee and in Jasper. We take extra meals to the hospitals in case there are families who didn’t get to have Thanksgiving because they’re at the emergency room,” Mosley said.
As for getting everything done, Mosley credits the hard work of volunteers who run the affair like a well-oiled machine.
“On Sunday afternoon, we’ll be cleaning the kitchen, getting the refrigerators ready, and making our cornbread to make dressing from scratch,” she said.
Preparations in the days leading up to Thanksgiving also include picking up, prepping, smoking and cutting turkeys, a two-day process from start to finish, making cornbread dressing, setting tables and readying the prep line.
“Plus, we have to clean constantly,” Mosley said.
Volunteers will deliver meals along 35 routes on Thanksgiving Day, starting around 10:30 a.m. and finishing around 1 p.m. Other volunteers will stay at Canton FUMC, where the meals are prepared, to serve meals in person and dine with people who come in to eat.
Cherokee Thanksgiving volunteers, a crew about 150 strong, range in age from children to senior citizens in their 80s. Many families and scouting troops volunteer together.
Canton FUMC is the home base for Cherokee Thanksgiving.
“They back us up financially. We use their kitchen and their facility. The greatest majority of our volunteers do come from the church, but it has also reached out to more than that,” Mosley said.
Don and Lila Stevens started Cherokee Thanksgiving two decades ago.
“We’re so proud of what (the volunteers and coordinators) have done. It’s very gratifying to see something that started 20 years ago just come so far and be done so well,” Don Stevens said.
While the Stevens family isn’t in charge anymore, they plan to volunteer on Thanksgiving Day. Don Stevens still arranges for the 145 turkeys to be smoked and served.
“We have many volunteers that have been there from that first year,” Mosley said.
Longtime volunteers Loriann Brogdon and Barbara Fulbright are co-coordinators for Cherokee Thanksgiving.
When Mosley first volunteered seven years ago, Cherokee Thanksgiving served almost 900 meals.
“It has just taken off. Partly because we beefed up our advertising, and partly because, with the economy, we have more opportunities to serve,” she said.
Those opportunities to serve keep Mosley and other volunteers coming back year after year to prepare meals, deliver them across the community and serve them to anyone wanting a meal and some company on Thanksgiving.
“You always get more than you give. Always,” Mosley said.
Meals will be served at Canton FUMC from noon to 1:30 p.m. Reservations are preferred and can be made by calling (770) 877-2132 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Delivery meals can also be ordered through those means.
Those wanting to volunteer can email email@example.com for more information about available opportunities. Donations can be sent to Canton FUMC, marked for Cherokee Thanksgiving.