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Lending a hand: Volunteers help Stewpot hand out Thanksgiving meals

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Lynn Rivers puts turkey into a food package before sending it down the assembly line to be filled with dressing, gravy, peas, sweet potatoes, pie and a roll Thursday at the Natchez Stewpot. The community kitchen had prepared the meals for the Thanksgiving holiday.

NATCHEZ — Ten-year-old Cole Holt spent his Thanksgiving showing his gratitude for the good things in his life by giving back.

Stacking to-go plates at the Natchez Stewpot, Holt said it was a good way to spend the morning.

“It feels good, because I get to help others,” he said.

Stewpot manager and employee Johnnie Davis said this week the kitchen has seen a good group of volunteers, and that’s a good thing. Wednesday the kitchen, which feeds anybody who comes through its door and turns no one away, handed out 400 meal plates. Thursday the plan was to start with 200 meals and see if more were needed.

Louis Gunning, the Stewpot’s director, said Wednesday afternoon 20 turkeys were smoked in preparation for Thanksgiving, but Thanksgiving turnouts are usually lower because most people have some place to go for the holiday.

But even if the turnout for Thanksgiving was smaller than it has been earlier in the week, Natchezian Joann Williams said she was happy to help dole out the turkey, stuffing and other traditional fixings.

“God has really blessed me, so I am trying to help out with volunteering,” Williams said.

Ruth Ann Holt and her daughter Sidney, 9, fill Thanksgiving food packages with rolls and pieces of pumpkin pie.

“I just like helping people.”

Others, like first-time volunteer Lynn Rivers, felt like having a weekday off lent itself to helping out.

“I live nearby, and I drive past the Stewpot all the time,” Rivers said. “I have always wanted to help, but I work an 8-5 job so this is the first chance I have gotten.”

While volunteer help is always appreciated, especially someone who can do heavy lifting, Gunning said the community can help in other ways.

One significant way that help can be extended is with money.

“The cost of operating has gone up, and we aren’t getting nearly the money we have,” Gunning said. “The rainy day fund is getting depleted really quickly.”

Another way is by donating meat.

“This is the time of year we get a lot of deer meat,” Gunning said. “During the year, the big thing we need other than money is ground meat.”

And another need that can be easily met is for cleaning and food handling supplies such as bleach or gloves, he said.

But that doesn’t mean that the Stewpot isn’t grateful for its volunteers, Davis said.

“If we had them, we would use volunteers every day,” she said.