Organized mainly as a way to help those impacted by Hurricane Matthew, last year’s St. Augustine Community Thanksgiving Day Luncheon was supposed to be a one-off event.
But in the months since, Hurricane Irma hit Florida and other tragedies have struck both locally and nationally, event organizer Monica Davis said.
Davis said the community supported her through her own tragedy, the death of her daughter, and she now plans to keep the event going every Thanksgiving to benefit the community and those who may be dealing with a hard time.
“We need to keep embracing each other,” Davis said.
Last year, many turned up for the meal, both rich and poor, locals and visitors, those affected by hurricanes and those who were unscathed by the storms.
“It is an opportunity for families, neighbors and strangers to get together and sit down for an afternoon of food, live music and companionship,” Davis wrote in an email to The Record. “The meal is free and open to everyone in our community — resident or tourist.”
Because of possible rain, the luncheon won’t be on Orange Street this year. Rain or shine, food will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at First United Methodist Church at 118 King St. in St. Augustine, Davis said. Those who want to volunteer can show up at any time and don’t need to contact anyone ahead of time, she said. Setup will begin at 7 a.m. Thursday.
A lot of volunteer hours in the kitchen and sponsors make the event happen.
Last year’s event served about 300 people, with the help of about 100 volunteers, 25 turkeys, 20 hams, dozens of desserts and a slew of side dishes, according to Davis. This year, about 30 turkeys and 22 hams will be on the table with the usual sides.
“We’re trying to have a traditional, real Thanksgiving,” said volunteer Chuck Bromirski.
Bromirski said he’s been an event coordinator and has reached out to let people know about the event, including law enforcement and local charities.
“This is a community effort,” he said.
Mimi Rankine, a west St. Augustine resident, plans to cook eight turkeys, four hams and “a bunch of side dishes.”
But this is far from Rankine’s first tim volunteering.
She’s helped neighbors affected by hurricane damage with meals and other assistance. She said she’s formed bonds with people who are still struggling and need help.
Some don’t have money to repair their homes and are afraid to reach out for help.
“It’s quite devastating … a lot of them need emotional support as well,” Rankine said.
For those who are not able or not willing to come out to the event, Rankine’s family plans to bring them food this year.
“It’s going to be three or four years before some people get back into their houses. … I think that’s why a lot of people have committed to help keep this [Thanksgiving luncheon] going,” she said.
Davis said not everyone has a place to go for the holiday or a family to give thanks with, and this event helps fill that gap.
“Where does the elderly lady … go when she has no kids?” Davis asked. “Where do families go when they don’t have the money for Thanksgiving? … You come down to the [community] Thanksgiving.”