Nov. 24—ANDERSON — Continuing a tradition that has been a staple on the city's calendar for 40 years, volunteers gathered Thursday to provide a Thanksgiving dinner for members of the Anderson community.
Annually, except for the COVID-19 pandemic year of 2020, hundreds of turkey dinners with all the trimmings have been provided to local residents who might not have a meal or may be spending the day alone.
This year, board members for the not-for-profit which sponsors the event changed its name to the James Warner Annual Thanksgiving Dinner.
Warner, 85, has been organizing the dinner for more than three decades and on Thursday was at the Anderson Zion Baptist Church at 3:30 a.m. to prepare for the day.
More than 1,500 dinners were provided from the church; the Anderson Christian Center was prepared to provide hundreds of meals in Anderson and Elwood.
Also continuing a tradition of its own, the Anderson Police Department assisted with the delivery of meals.
The department delivered 70 meals to Longfellow Plaza and the residents gave a round of applause to the officers.
Thomas Clem has been volunteering since 1990 and is a member of the board. He proposed naming the event after Warner.
"Every year this grows and grows," he said. "It's because of James. We wanted to create a legacy, much like the Mozell Sanders event in Indianapolis. It has more meaning when you can associate it with someone in our community.
"James has earned this," Clem continued. "Look at all these people — it's amazing. It's the one time the community comes together like this."
Gemani Kirksey, a member of the Anderson High School girls basketball team, helped with the bagging of food items for delivery.
"I like it," she said. "It brings people joy and I like helping."
Glenndon Golder, 12, a student in Lawrence, worked to help direct traffic for those residents picking up a meal.
"My dad is the pastor here," he said. "This is my first year. It's very good and caring because so many people that live around here are desperate."
John Jackson has been volunteering at the dinner for 28 years and was working traffic control.
"I'm here to try and help someone," he said. "It's all about helping people. This is important."
Ron May said at the event no one asks any questions. The only goal is to provide a meal.
"We want to make everyone feel welcome," May said.
Alex Troutman, a senior at Anderson High School and a member of the basketball team, was volunteering for the first time.
"I'm volunteering to make sure everyone gets a meal today," he said.
Louis Jackson, a junior on the basketball team, was volunteering for the third year.
"I like to be able to help people and get people some food and to help out in the community," Jackson said. "You meet a lot of people out here, which makes it fun."
Lance Patterson oversaw kitchen operations at the Christian Center, where 50 in-person meals were served before noon.
"We prepared about 18 turkeys," he said. "We probably over-prepared, but better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
"It's been a normal day," Patterson added. "We wanted to be one of the organizations that are helping to serve the public."
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.