GIBSON — Tables laden with decorative leaves, pumpkins and desserts hosted as many as 200 people who visited Pate Gardner Elementary on Wednesday to enjoy an early Thanksgiving feast.
It was the second of what school principal Charles Dulin hopes will become a long-standing community tradition.
“We just want to give something back,” he said.
The school prepared enough food for 300 people for the meal held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., funded by donations from churches, business partners, the school’s faculty members and the PTO. St. John’s United Methodist Church also donated to the cause and came in to set up with Thanksgiving-themed decorations, centerpieces and table cloths inside the cafeteria.
“We raised the money by ourselves,” Dulin said. “We don’t use the school’s money and all of our desserts are donated.”
Church members, faculty of the school and even a few of Dulin’s family members volunteered at the event and helped with decorating and preparing and serving the food.
Dulin said that the lack of activity on Gibson’s Main Street gave him the idea to help brighten the community by hosting a lunch for the public in honor of the holiday dedicated to giving thanks.
He added that he also thought about the children who would not see a long tabled feast on their dinner tables for Thanksgiving.
“Child hunger is prevalent in Laurinburg and Scotland County — some may not see another meal until they get back to school,” Dulin said.
But, the meal is not just for school-aged kids.
“We won’t turn anyone away,” said Dulin. “We just want them to feel at home.”
Once Dulin said a prayer to bless the food, lunch was ready to be served and visitors lined up at the buffet area in the kitchen to start piling their plates with turkey, dressing, green beans, rolls, gravy and sweet potato souffle. Sweet tea was available at a table next to the kitchen doors for visitors to enjoy in the dining area of the cafeteria.
For dessert, an assortment of baked goods were pre-cut and set out on plates for visitors like brownies, pumpkin pies, cheesecakes and cakes to grab and go.
Victoria Locklear, cafeteria manager at Pate Gardner Elementary, said that it took two days to cook and prepare the food that they served for the community Thanksgiving.
The team that helped her with making the necessary preparations were Ann Elvis, who works in the cafeteria at Scotland High, Virginia Williams, retired cafeteria manager of Pate Gardner and Annie Whitehead and Barbara Mandras, who both work with Locklear as cooks in the school’s cafeteria.
“I love it,” Locklear said. “It’s a good thing for the community.”
Special guests that attended the community Thanksgiving were Sen. Gene McLaurin, Rep. Garland Pierce and Charles Brown, chairman of the Scotland County School Board of Education.
Last year, the school paid about $900 for the food and any leftovers from the community Thanksgiving were donated to two different outreach organizations.
However this year Dulin said that they “had plenty for everybody” and almost all of the food was gone when the event ended.