Today we will be reminded once again of how different, and truly special, the Aiken community can be.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., thousands will gather downtown in The Alley and share a holiday meal prepared and served by hundreds of volunteers. One Table, an event which traces its roots to 2005, actually harkens back much farther than just those eight years. It carries forward the American tradition of the first Thanksgiving feast when Pilgrims celebrated a bountiful harvest and shared it with the native people they met in what was a new and challenging world for them. That first feast was about so much more than just a good meal. It was about friendship and cooperation and the ability of people from disparate backgrounds to live and work together for the betterment of all.

To quote the One Table motto, this is not a hand out, itís a handshake.

Thatís the truly remarkable part about this event that has become so much a part of the holiday season here. While many communities boast charity events where the less fortunate are treated to turkey and the trimmings, One Table is so much more. It is truly a gathering of people from all walks of life Ė rich, poor, liberal, conservative, white, black, brown Ė you name it. For this one day of the year, the people of Aiken put aside all of these differences that can, despite our best efforts, divide us in so many ways. They put them aside and they sit at one massive table and they break bread together as friends, neighbors and, most importantly, equals.

The now much-anticipated annual event came from just a few people trying to do good and getting the ball rolling. A few residents, St. Thaddeusí Soup Kitchen and Christ Central Ministries looked around at everyone in town. They saw the young and old, black and white, poor and rich, and wanted to bring everyone together for one day, one feast of real community togetherness. And what better day than Thanksgiving Day. Barbara Franklin, from Christ Central Ministries, joined with Eddie George from the Aiken Department of Public Safety, who in 2004 had expanded a Thanksgiving meal for on-duty officers to include those who might otherwise be without a turkey day meal, to pull off that first year. They reached out to several people and 20 churches to make that first year the success it was.

From those humble beginnings, we have seen One Table grow by leaps and bounds. Far beyond the filled bellies, the benefits to the community are likely too numerous to ever be counted. Today, we give thanks for living in a place where One Table is possible and we pray that Aikenís residents will truly keep the spirit of the event long after the plates are cleared today and The Alley is once again open to traffic.