Love, smiles and laughs were seen all around the Rome Civic Center as thousands of hungry people were fed at the 33rd annual Thanksgiving Love Feast.
Just before the doors opened at 11 a.m., the organizer, the Rev. Terrell Shields, offered a brief speech to all of the volunteers.
“This is our 33rd time doing this,” Shields said. “We thank God for each time and we thank God for each of you.”
Shields also held a moment of silence for Rev. Warren Jones, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 99. When Shields started the Love Feast in 1988, Jones was one of the first to be involved.
There was a memorial table sitting in the middle of the room dedicated to Jones. On the table were flowers, cupcakes, one his favorite poems and around 3,000 crosses for people to take as they left.
“His whole life was about serving other people,” his daughter Jan Fergerson said. “He instilled that in his family.”
Then, the doors opened and the day of giving began.
Just like in 2020, the Love Feast was pickup and delivery only, instead of the usual crowded sit-down meal of years past. Volunteers and hungry patrons had to wear masks and use hand sanitizer before handling food.
Folks went through the buffet line with their to-go boxes and serves gave them portions of turkey, cranberry sauce, vegetables and other Thanksgiving food. At the end of the line, servers handed people bags of cakes and other desserts before sending them out the back door.
Trina Davidson has been volunteering for the Love Feast for 33 years and is a bit of a do-it-all helper.
“It’s been a blessing,” Davidson said. “It gives me chills thinking of people that need clothes and food. You don’t know what’s out there. To be able to give them a good hot meal is an honor.”
First-time volunteer Ethan Garcia, 14, helped bag all the desserts.
“I think Love Feast is very helpful to them,” Garcia said. “I’m here because I want to help.”
In the back of the kitchen, Vietnam War veteran Robert Carey helped with meal prep.
“I just like to volunteer, be around people and give help to folks that need it,” he said. “That’s what we are here for. To those that need this, I’m sure they are very grateful.”
The smiling faces and “have a happy Thanksgiving” cheers showed just how positive of an experience the Love Feast can be for people in need.
“I love the people here,” Seth Hopkin said. “These people have such lovely personalities and they’re very outgoing.