By Catherine Pugh
Special to the AFRO
Cynthia Brooks is a woman not easily shaken by a challenge, she takes after her mother, the fearless activist and former Baltimore City Councilwoman, Beatrice “Bea” Gaddy.
For the last 21 years Brooks has run the Bea Gaddy Family Center’s Thanksgiving Dinner for the homeless, offering a chance for those who need it most to eat and fellowship to thousands of people.
The event has traditionally been held at the Patterson Park Recreation Center, at 2601-A, E. Baltimore Street. This year, however, Brooks ran into a problem: the recreation center is currently out of commission as the heating and air conditioning systems are repaired.
A search to find a new venue made headlines, as Brooks searched for a new location for the event.
“I wanted to keep the event in East Baltimore,” Brooks told the AFRO. After realizing she would not be able to hold the event at the usual location, offers from the community poured in.
Last week, she toured the Madison and Rita Church recreational centers with city officials. “I liked the Rita Church site, but both venues had logistic problems,” she said.
Brooks was searching for a space large enough to accommodate attendees, but preferred a building able to host such an event all on one level of the building. She also needed a space for the meals to be prepared.
“The church near Patterson Park, where food over the years has been cooked and prepared for the holiday dinner, is also not available,” said Brooks.
Stafford Culinary School, which shut down as a teaching institution after losing their accreditation, offered to lend their kitchen space to cook the meals and have them transported to Brooks.
Then, a solution appeared.
Brooks, with officials from the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, toured the Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center at 201 Reedbird Avenue in Cherry Hill.
“It is a great site,” says Brooks.
With a space secured, the dinner plans are officially back in motion.
“I’m looking forward to working out all the logistics with the city,” said Brooks.
While many challenges arose in the planning of this year’s event, city officials say next year’s dinner patrons should be able to return to their traditional spot, as renovations are expected to be complete ahead of November 2024.
“We recently received our purchase order and will have the center operational by the Spring,” said Reginald Moore, executive director of Baltimore City’s Department of Recreation and Parks.
While the venue may be secure, Brooks says the next hurdle is supplies and food.
“I might have to start a Go-Fund Me- page to raise the fee for the turkeys we will need,” said Brooks.
Brooks took over the planning of the dinner many years ago to continue the tradition started by her mother, a fierce advocate for those most in need. Gaddy was born in 1933 and died in 2001, but her presence is still felt in the city today as others carry on her work in the community.
To volunteer or donate to the causes supported by the Bea Gaddy Family Center, please visit beagaddy.org.