Donnell Long, owner and executive chef of the Old Towne Inn in Upper Marlboro in Prince George’s County, has for years fed and provided hundreds of local needy children with a Merry Christmas.
To get the holiday season started, however, he has also each year done something to make Thanksgiving happy for Washington-area children. This year is no exception. He is planning to serve a traditional meal of turkey, stuffing, candied yams, macaroni and cheese, green beans and sumptuous desserts to 400 children and their teachers at the National Collegiate Preparatory Public Charter High School on Good Hope Road in Southeast Washington.
There is a twist to the meal, which will be served two days before Thanksgiving, however.
“The kids are going to prepare 90 percent of the food,” said Long. “We have a culinary arts program through child and family services where we teach foster children to cook. We thought it would be great to mix teaching children to cook with feeding children and their teachers. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Long is among many entrepreneurs, churches and charities gearing up to serve Thanksgiving meals to people who are hungry. Churches are holding food drives, social organizations are preparing to deliver boxes of food, and non-profit organizations are collecting money and feeding hungry men, women, and children. Families are shopping for food gifts for people who otherwise might not have a festive holiday meal.
Another Black restaurateur, Lance London, owner of the Carolina Kitchen group, is feeding hundreds of homeless and disadvantaged men, women and children at his Carolina Kitchen Bar & Grille in Hyattsville in Prince George’s County on Thanksgiving. The event, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., will feature “a hot home-cooked meal and a warm environment filled with loving people and entertainment,” a spokeswoman said. Transportation is available.
One of the organizations feeding families is Project GiveBack, a group of volunteers and supporters who are dedicated to “building community through service.” They will be hosting their 19th annual Thanksgiving food distribution on Nov. 23.
Radio station WHUR 96.3 collected food and money Nov. 19 at its “Food2Feed” event. Motorists were encouraged by on-air personalities to drop off food or money at the Old Post Office Pavilion to be distributed in food baskets by the Capital Area Food Bank and Shabach Ministries of First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Prince George’s County. More than $100,000 was collected, according to its website.
So Others Might Eat, a community-based faith organization that helps the poor and homeless by providing them with services such as food, job training, housing, and addiction treatment, is sponsoring its 12th Annual Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger to raise money for its programs. Last year, the organization served over 250,000 meals throughout the year and gave away 22,000 sets of free clothing, according to the SOME website.
Long, who also owns a coffee shop in Upper Marboro, grew up poor and at one time was homeless himself as a child. He has provided meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas, held food drives, delivered meal baskets, taken meals to shelters serving homeless people, raised money for charities and provided clothing to the needy.
He said he gives because he remembers being hungry himself. He is chairman of the board of a charitable organization called W.H.A.L.E.R.S. Creation, which works to match foster children and children in need of adoption with loving homes.
He, his staff and volunteers are taking 25 turkeys, 100 pounds of white potatoes, 100 pounds of sweet potatoes, dozens of pounds of green beans, and other food items to the school, where a team of students will wash, prep, cook and serve the food.
For many, it will their only Thanksgiving meal.
“Even in D.C., there are children who don’t know what a turkey is,” Long said. “We forget how underserved some in our community actually are.”