Generosity feeds thousands

Published 8:06 pm Saturday, November 19, 2016

A chorus of “Thanks yous” and “Happy Thanksgivings” rang across downtown Suffolk on Saturday as two annual food giveaways helped thousands prepare for Thanksgiving.

LeOtis Williams and Impact Suffolk gave out turkeys and other food items to people who started lining up before dawn in hopes of being able to put out a spread for Thanksgiving.

“It’s been a good day,” said Williams, a business owner who started the food giveaway 14 years ago with only 175 turkeys. “I can’t describe the feeling.”

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Williams has continued to grow his giveaway each year, dipping into his own pocket to ensure his friends and neighbors have a happy Thanksgiving. This year’s turkey total was approximately 2,000.

As the number of turkeys has grown, so has the event itself. Fresh collards and other fixings were given out this year at Williams’ business off East Constance Road, and folks waiting in line were treated to breakfast in the morning and hamburgers and hotdogs as lunchtime approached. Williams said people were already in line when he arrived before 3:30 a.m. to start setting up.

Also this year, Farm Fresh was on hand to give free flu shots, and the Suffolk Humane Society brought its pet pantry, handing out a truck full of dog and cat food, litter and toys to help people keep their pets fed, as well.

“I’m really grateful for what he’s done,” said Cassandra Sparrow, who received food on Saturday. “He’s really making Thanksgiving for everyone.”

Williams’ generosity extends beyond just the turkey giveaway. Reginald Bivins, who works for Williams’ lawn service, spoke to the crowd and explained how Williams has helped him.

“I came home from the penitentiary last year and couldn’t get a job,” Bivins said. But Williams hired him — and then had to fire him — but later gave him another chance.

“That’s the type of man he is, Bivins said. “We all need a hand here and there.”

At the Impact Suffolk giveaway, 30 churches and 10 to 15 businesses and organizations came together to hand out food to an expected 1,500 community members. Folks were reportedly standing in line as early as 1 a.m. at the Howard Mast Tennis Courts behind Farm Fresh on North Main Street.

Each church took responsibility for a different side item. Some had purchased food in bulk with donations, while others collected the food items through individual donations from members.

In addition to turkeys, various canned vegetables, stuffing, cornbread mix, pasta, fresh sweet potatoes, cake mix and more were offered.

“I’m truly grateful,” said Sharon Wilkins. “If it wasn’t for this, it would be hard for me on Thursday. I thank God he has given them the heart to look out for those less fortunate.”

Win Anderson, president of Impact Suffolk and pastor of Family Harvest Church, said they were pleased at the turnout.

“It’s about everybody coming together and working together for the good of the community,” he said, adding the weather was perfect for the giveaway events. “God knows what He’s doing.”

QVC and Walmart had supported the event heavily, Anderson said. Massimo Zanetti handed out coffee. NuWine played music. The Gideons handed out New Testaments. Groups like Ladies of Distinction Social Club and 7 City Divas also came to help.

“It’s a blessing to be able to help other people,” said Dorothy Brinkley of Balm of Gilead Missionary Baptist Church. “God blesses us, so that we can bless somebody else.”

It was the first year of participation for local Pentecostal churches, which handed out cans of green beans with the addresses and phone numbers of locally affiliated churches pasted on top.

“We just want to help those who need and don’t have,” Eugenia Green said.

And through it all, few grumbling words could be heard — only “Thank you” and “Happy Thanksgiving.”