Volunteers prepare for massive Thanksgiving dinner

By Ben Garbarek - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It's the biggest dinner in town Thursday. 3000 people are expected to fill the Richmond Convention Center for the Giving Hearts annual Thanksgiving feast.

Many give thanks on Thanksgiving, while some people take time to give others something to be thankful for. Joy Elliott has been volunteering for five years. She says this is now a family tradition.

"This is how we spend our Thanksgiving," she said. "That's how important it is to us. We feel like we're not missing Thanksgiving, we're sharing our Thanksgiving with 3000 people."

It takes a lot to feed 3000 people. Cooks were busy preparing the 300 turkeys, baking 300 pies and making 80 gallons of gravy. Vicki Neilson organizes the dinner every year. She says it takes a lot of people to make this dinner a reality.

"This is a perfect example of people coming together," she said. "There's no politics, there's no religion. It's people and it really just warms your heart to see it in action."

Volunteers say it's not just the size of this Thanksgiving dinner that sets it apart, it's who's invited for dinner.

"You don't need a label to come here," Neilson said. "We don't need to know why you're here. The fact is you're here for the food and fellowship."

Volunteers hope the cavernous exhibit hall can feel like home.

"I think of the convention center as our home," Elliott said. "We're opening up our home to guests who are alone or just can't afford a Thanksgiving meal."

The Thanksgiving meal is from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the Exhibition Hall at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. There's free parking available in the 3rd and Marshall Street garage.

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