For the eighth straight year, thousands of people put aside their racial, religious and socio-economic differences and sat together at one table to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.
Kathryn Wade, event coordinator for Aiken's One Table downtown celebration, said the event fed more than 2,000 people and was, again, deemed a success.
“It went very well,” she said. “We had enough food, and we were able to take some extra food to some other food kitchens and a rescue mission in Augusta. It all worked out.”
The event began in 2005 as a combined effort of Christ Central Ministry and St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church.
“They were having a soup kitchen at St. Thaddeus, and Barbara Franklin had the idea to make it larger and open it to all of the community,” Wade said. “The group of people just got together and started working and made it happen the first year. Almost the same group has been working year ever since.”
The event is open to anyone in Aiken.
On Thanksgiving Day, long tables lined The Alley downtown. Guests filled their plates with a hearty traditional Thanksgiving meal, which included 150 turkeys and more than 300 cans of other types of food, including macaroni and cheese, rice and gravy, stuffing, green beans and cranberry sauce, Wade said.
With the exception of the turkeys, which are donated and cooked the day before by a team of volunteers, all the food items are assigned to local churches and civic organizations, which prepare the dishes.
About 150 volunteers were on hand to help serve food, prepare drinks and clean up, Wade said, adding that by the end of the day, about 400 volunteers touched the event in some way.
“We've added more groups who are cooking for us,” Wade said. “We used to cook the turkeys all night Wednesday. They'd start on Wednesday afternoon and cook all the way through Thursday, which made for some tired guys on Thursday.”
Additionally, there were groups and individuals who performed throughout the day, Wade said. People sang songs, recited poems and one man even rapped.
Wade recalled her first job while working with One Table: preparing to-go plates for shut-ins.
“I came because I wanted to do something nice for somebody on Thanksgiving,” she said, adding that she was named volunteer coordinator the following year. From there, she began coordinating the entire event, which she's done for three years.
This was also the third year that the event collected canned goods for local food pantries.
“People not only come and eat,” Wade said, “they share with their neighbors.”
Wade said getting so many volunteers together to prepare such quantities of food is impressive by itself.
“For a community as diverse as Aiken, for so many people from all walks of life to be able to come together and have a meal together – I don't know where else that happens,” she said. “I think it's so special that people are willing to sit down with their neighbors no matter what their economic level is, their skin color.”
To learn more about One Table, including how to get involved, visit www.onetable.org.