Councilman Taft Dillashaw, Coach Alan Scott and members of the GHHS football team wash dishes.
Tribune reporter W.C. Mann shares his experience at yesterday's eighth annual Good Hope Community Thanksgiving Meal.
GOOD HOPE – In the Bible we are told, "The greatest among you will be a servant to you. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 23.11-12) I have to assume that the leaders of Good Hope paid attention in Sunday school, because they seem quite familiar with the idea.
On Wednesday morning, the City of Good Hope held its eighth annual free community Thanksgiving dinner at the Good Hope High School (GHHS) lunchroom. Officially the event started at 11, but local residents just couldn't wait to dig in; when I arrived at 10:40, Boy Scouts of Good Hope Troop 241 were already handing out boxes to cars in the drive-through. Inside, folks were already beginning to enjoy the sit-down version.
The free meal was quite a treat. I was instructed to sit down and try one. I told them I was a reporter just there to cover the event, but they made it clear that my first bit of research would be done with a fork. I didn't complain. Every box lunch included chicken, dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, potato salad, cole slaw, green beans, yeast roll, a choice of drink and a cookie for dessert. The food was wonderful, thanks to lunchroom staffers Angela Day, Emily Blankenship and Deborah Scott, who spent most of the day Tuesday preparing and cooking.
An equally enjoyable treat was seeing who was serving. Numerous volunteers from the school, scouts, and community at large turned out to help; and in the thick of the labor were Good Hope's own city officials. City Council members John Harris, Maxie Jones, Susan Eller, Greg Brown and Taft Dillashaw, along with City Clerk Christie Chamblee, took turns on the line, putting on their gloves to load the lunch boxes. Mayor Jerry Bartlett, in his apron, loaded finished box lunches into chests for the scouts to take out to the drive-through. City Attorney Rita Nicholas and her husband, Cullman County Circuit Judge Greg Nicholas, along with State Rep. Corey Harbison, R- Good Hope took their turns on the line. The list is by no means complete.
When not loading boxes, officials were serving attendees. It was Mayor Bartlett who held the door for me to get in, and Councilman Dillashaw who both told me to eat and brought my meal to the table.
Outside, the scouts, led by Charles and Helen Bowen, got dine-in visitors parked and directed others to the drive-through line, where they passed out box lunches. GHHS Maintenance staffer Joey Overton, also a scout volunteer, helped haul ice chests full of boxes from the lunchroom. In all, nine scouts and seven adult scout volunteers participated, as the troop has done at every previous Thanksgiving.
The use of disposable containers and flatware for the lunches didn't mean there was nothing to clean up. Out front, some of these same local officials could be seen wiping down counters and table tops during slow moments. Back in the kitchen Councilman Dillashaw, GHHS football coach Alan Scott and members of the football team washed serving pans and utensils.
According to Mayor Bartlett, the City had planned for 1,200 meals to be served, from 11 a.m. until the food ran out. It moved quickly: by 11:20 he noted that servers had already gone through more than 500 boxes. When I left a little before 1 p.m., things were slowing down and volunteers were taking the opportunity to catch their breath and even try some food themselves. A good number of diners remained in the lunchroom, though, and a trickle of cars was still making its way to the drive-through line.
Rep. Harbison, who was Good Hope's mayor when the first of these meals was served eight years ago, enjoys the opportunity to be home for the event. "It's a good chance to see everybody, and for us to give something back to the community," he said.
Mayor Bartlett praises the success of the event and community response, noting that the first community Thanksgiving meal served around 250 plates, compared to the 1,200 planned for this year. He also applauded the many local businesses and other event sponsors, whose contributions funded the purchase of all food and materials through the school lunchroom.
The mayor also pointed out that these sponsors don't just fund this event. Their support also allows the City to provide free food and entertainment at its Christmas and back-to-school events.
"We have free food, bouncy houses, a parade; and everything's free to everyone who comes because these people give," he observed. "It's a total community deal."
Information about upcoming community events can be found at www.goodhopeal.com.
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