ANDERSON — As Kathy Kellams prepared the kitchen at Cross Roads United Methodist Church to handle the influx of people who would be arriving to receive an early Thanksgiving meal, one of her volunteers told her there were already a few people waiting in the lobby.
Kellams went out to the lobby and found the area packed with people. It was a sign of things to come.
Kellams and other church volunteers went on to serve a hot meal to about 600 people over the course of Tuesday as part of the church's John Lawson Memorial Thanksgiving Dinner. Meals were provided from 2 to 6 p.m. at the church, 2000 N. Scatterfield Road. About an hour in, Kellams had to take a break and get off her feet after working on organizing the dinner for the past four days. But, she said, it was worth it.
"This is a really good thing we're doing here," Kellams said. "A lot of people here wouldn't be getting a dinner otherwise. It's definitely a good problem having all these people here."
For a while, volunteers were concerned that the food might not last, but meals were still available for deliveries after 6 p.m. for people unable to leave their homes. The church worked an agreement with City of Anderson Transit System to run CATS buses to and from the dinner. Kellams said this makes Cross Roads' dinner unique from Thanksgiving Day meal offerings.
"That's one of the reasons we have it on Tuesday. The buses won't run on Thursday," she said. "For seven years, it's grown every year, and it's something we're proud of."
Five years ago, the annual dinner was renamed to honor John Lawson, a church member who died in 2008. Lawson was homeless for a long time but was well known by church members, who eventually pooled resources to have Lawson put in a nursing home so he could battle terminal cancer. Before he died, Lawson volunteered at the Thanksgiving dinners and other projects.
"It's something that means a lot to all of us," said volunteer Cami Davis. "It's something a lot of us enjoy and it's very rewarding. John embodied that."
Many who came brought families, and the church made its backyard available to children who wanted to play. Children's director Terri Nolan said the dinner is an attempt to service entire families and give back to the community.
"It feels good to see people smiling and thanking us when they leave," Nolan said.
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