WAGRAM — Each Thanksgiving, one Wagram woman gives thanks and a whole lot more, providing a free Thanksgiving dinner at the Oak Hill Community Center to anyone who might drop by.
This will be the 30th year that Delores Alston, a Wagram native, hosts a free Thanksgiving dinner for people — whether they are unable to afford their own feast, are short on time due to their work schedules, or have no close relatives to join in celebrating the holiday.
The dinner will be served on Nov. 26, from 12:30 to 5:00 p.m. at the Oak Hill Community Center at 30361 North Turnpike Road.
The menu includes roast turkey, ham with dressing, turnip greens, collard greens, okra, candied yams, field peas, cranberry sauce, pies, cakes and soda. All of the food will be out in chafer dishes in a buffet-style manner. The dinner will accommodate up to 500 people, and carry out plates are available after 3 p.m. There will also be fruit bags consisting of oranges, apples, pecans and two sticks of candy to take home after the event.
“I cook everything myself — I’ve already cooked eight turkeys,” said Alston, who began preparing for the event in April. “It’s a natural routine to start preparing for the event.”
All of the vegetables are grown on the farmland near Alston’s home. As she begins to pick them from April through November, she stores them in multiple freezers around the house. She also stores her ham, turkey and desserts until the night before Thanksgiving, when she pulls everything out and heats them up.
Alston began her generous Thanksgiving dinner 30 years ago.
“My daddy used to say: feed the people if you don’t do nothing else,” she said. “I started out with a little red truck”
Alston drove her little red truck around to the homes of the elderly and infirm to deliver Thanksgiving plates. Every year, her service grew bigger and bigger until she decided to host the dinner at the community center across the street from her house to welcome all community members.
“You may have food on your table, but other people they may not have money to buy a turkey or this or that,” she said. “Nobody wants to feel like they don’t have nothin’.”
She invites in community members to let them know they are important to her and so that no one will feel ashamed on what should be a day of giving.
“I just like to do it because a lot of people don’t have anything to eat and a lot of people can’t go and buy turkey and make cakes, so I tell them to come as you are,” she said. “There’s not a person that comes in that I don’t shake their hand and talk to them.”
This is the second time Alston will host the event since her mother, Malinda Gibson, passed away in 2014.
“She did all the baking and I did all the other stuff,” she said. “You never think your mama’s going to die, but I still like doing this and being here because my roots are here.”
Now Alston will be baking desserts as well as the main course. She is able to provide desserts and other food through donations, which she receives by mailing out letters asking for assistance. However, after 30 years of hosting the dinner, she hopes soon enough she can pass it on.
“I want someone to carry on the tradition — every year I say it’s my last year, but I want someone else to do it,” she said.
Alston has a daughter and family in Georgia, but she hopes someone in the community will be willing to take over the Thanksgiving tradition — because that’s what Thanksgiving is all about.
“I take the leftovers to give away because I just don’t want anybody left behind, ” she said. “I just want everybody to be thankful.”
Abby Hackmann can be reached at 910-506-3171.