Betty Williamson and her son, Pat Henson, are in their fifth year of service at the annual One Table free community dinner at The Alley in downtown Aiken.
The event has become somewhat of a tradition for the two, which includes Henson traveling from Lexington each year to volunteer.
“This is our fifth year doing this, and it's something we look forward to every year,” Henson said. “It's not only about the people who may not be able to afford their own Thanksgiving, but the people who can. Just being together as a community means a lot.”
In addition to her son, the rest of Williamson's children volunteered during the day as well. Having her family come together to assist in serving meals is a highlight for Williamson every year.
“We will go back and have our Thanksgiving meals, but I'm just so thrilled and blessed to be able to serve the people,” she said. “My children have come from Lexington, Spartanburg and Knoxville, so it's wonderful to have them come to town and help out.”
Several other families have also made the One Table event a tradition. Volunteer Ella Gardner said she and her son are in their second year of service at the event and consider it as part of their Christian duty.
“God has called us to be servants, and that's exactly what Jesus did,” Gardner said. “He stepped into the office of servanthood, and he called us to do the same. So we enjoy coming out each year to follow that message.”
As Gardner alluded to, church families were just as prominent as blood families at One Table on Thursday.
Dee Davis, from Cumberland A.M.E. Church, helped serve meals with her church family and said she has been a part of the event for four years.
“I look forward to it every year, and I'm starting to get my youth group more involved in helping out as well,” said. “We all have a great time, and it's such a great cause.”
In addition to meals, the event also included various entertainment acts on stage. The Rollins Christian Big Band performed various songs, followed by performances by the Total Praise Dance Academy and singers Catherine Longfellow and Don Studebaker.
Local resident Jennifer Clester and her children were also in attendance and enjoyed the food and entertainment.
“We appreciate all of One Table's efforts today,” Clester said. “It's a great event, and there's an amazing turnout. And we just want everyone to be blessed and feel blessed.”
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard.
He joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @ DerrekAsberry.
Photo gallery: One Table
Staff photo by Derrek Asberry Ella Gardner serves gravy at the One Table lunch downtown.×
Staff photo by Derrek Asberry Andrea Soto bites into a fresh roll.×
Staff photo by Derrek Asberry Volunteer Jamie Hawkins serves sweet tea to residents.×
Staff photo by Derrek Asberry Lisa Jean shares a slice of chocolate cake with her brother.×
Staff photo by Derrek Asberry Residents wait patiently in line at the One Table lunch.×
Staff photo by Derrek Asberry Joshua Lichtle balances a hot plate of food at the Thanksgiving Day lunch in downtown.×
Staff photo by Derrek Asberry Betty Williamson helps serve food.×
Staff photo by Derrek Asberry Singer Catherine Longfellow passionately performs at the One Table Thanksgiving event.×
Staff photo by Derrek Asberry The Rollins Christian Big Band performs on stage.×
Staff photo by Derrek Asberry Victor and Lisa Jean share a slice of cake.×
Photo by Allen Riddick The Rev. Angela McGhee serves another volunteer, Elaine Schmucker, her food at the One Table celebration in The Alley in downtown Aiken on Thanksgiving Day.×
Photo by Allen Riddick One Table volunteer Cindy Paulson serves desert to, Rita Hughson, left, and Kay Hummert. One Table was held in The Alley on Thanksgiving Day and was open to all citizens of Aiken.×
Staff photo by Derrek Asberry Thanksgiving goers eat at the long table in The Alley.×