FOR THE WHOLE COMMUNITY: Thanksgiving dinner for all, no strings attached

Published 11:24 am Wednesday, November 16, 2022

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NATCHEZ — Whether you are traveling around Natchez and looking for company or just don’t feel like cooking this Thanksgiving, there’s a free dinner for all this holiday at the Natchez Convention Center.

The Natchez Community Thanksgiving, which is free and open to the public, lasts from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 24 at the convention center. Enter through the Canal Street doors.

Downtown Karla Brown, who last year began 501(c)3 non-profit Natchez Community Thanksgiving Inc. that fed hundreds of people on Thanksgiving Day, plans to do the same event this year. She is looking for people, regardless of their social or economic status, to come hungry and be fed on Thanksgiving. She is also looking for anyone willing to contribute to the dinner, whether as a volunteer or monetarily. However, no donations will be accepted on Thanksgiving.

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“We will take donations 364 days a year, but when you come to that meal, we will not accept any money,” she said. “If we invited people to a free meal and then stuck a donation box out there, people would feel obligated to donate and we don’t want that.”

Brown, who has earned a reputation for her travels across the country, began a similar Thanksgiving event in Kansas 27 years ago. The first year, 100 meals were prepared and 90 people came and it has continued long after she moved away. In more recent years, nearly 1,500 were fed on each Thanksgiving.

“It has become a community dinner that people look forward to coming to and seeing people they might not have seen in a year,” she said.

JoAnn Brumfield, a board member of NCT Inc., said she wants people to feel the same way about Natchez’s Thanksgiving meal.

“There is no exclusivity. Anyone can come,” Brumfield said.

Brown prepared 400 meals for Natchez last year and 225 people came. The rest of the food was packed up and distributed. Some when the Adams County Nursing Center and a lot went to the Natchez Stewpot.

After another year of planning, approximately 20 volunteers have been recruited and almost all of the food has been purchased for Thanksgiving, Brown said. One last-minute need is anything sweet.

“I’ve done all of this planning for the food and forgot about dessert,” she said. “Pies, cookies cupcakes, anything sweet will do.”

These can be dropped off at the Natchez Convention Center while preparations are being made between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 23, or on the morning of Thanksgiving. Anyone who wants to stick around and eat or help out is welcome. Volunteers will be there as early as 8:30 a.m. to start prepping the meal.

“Anyone that needs to feel needed, we need that person,” Brumfield said.

Monetary contributions are also welcome.

Donations can be dropped off at Brown’s office at 512 Franklin Street or directly deposited at Concordia Bank. Checks should be made out to “Natchez Community Thanksgiving Inc.” or “NCT Inc.” for short.

Brown said those looking for more information or are interested in being a volunteer may call or text her at 907-540-0001.