Faith Community Baptist Church’s Annual
Thanksgiving Meal Cookout
Expanding to Meet the Thanksgiving
|Members of Faith Community Baptist Church and the North/Eastside Senior Coalition prepare
Thanksgiving meals at the FEED Kitchen on Sherman Avenue.
singing. After Ed Manuel, Melva McShan took it over and then I took it over after Melva left the center. Orlando Bell became the director then, but
he never coordinated the Thanksgiving dinner. He assigned it to me because I was helping Melva with it, so I knew how to do it. Orlando was
the director and he said, ‘You go ahead and do it.’”
Smith then became the center director for the South Madison Neighborhood Center and continued coordinating the dinner. While the center itself
underwent a transformation, the tradition continued, adding home deliveries to the sit-down Thanksgiving meal.
“My church did it for two years at the Boys & Girls Club,” Smith recalled. “And when I left in 2000, we were in the middle of doing the renovation
and adding on the teen center in the back. The construction just wouldn’t allow us to have it at the center that year, so we moved it to our church
thinking we would do it for one year and then send it back to the Boys & Girls Club. But our church just kept it, so we’ve been doing it since 2000.
We did it all of those years at St. Mark’s. Last year was the first time we didn’t do it at St. Mark’s since 2000. We did it at St. Joseph’s Catholic
In spring 2018, Smith will become the pastor for a branch of Door Creek Church that is planned for Madison’s north side, possible in the 12,000
sq. ft. space vacated by Kohl’s well over a decade ago in the Sherman Plaza Shopping Center. Smith felt that he should get involved in the north
side community, so Smith and his congregation decided to expand the Thanksgiving meal to the north and east sides. The challenge was to find a
commercial kitchen large enough capacity for the group to basically double the number of meals it prepared. They checked out the FEED Kitchen
in the Northgate Shopping Center on Sherman Avenue.
“I actually stopped by the FEED Kitchen one day to see what the feasibility would be of using it would be,” Smith said. “I explained what we were
doing and they were like, ‘Thanksgiving meal deliveries to the elderly, you could do that here.’ I talked with the North Eastside Senior Coalition
about it and brought them on through Pam Bracey who works there. They loved the idea of helping out. And they said they would become a
member of the FEED Kitchen because there is an annual fee. They took care of the FEED Kitchen fee so that we could do it as a partnership here.
And it’s working out excellent. We have access to something like 12 ovens.”
How the whole meal is prepared sure has changed from the early 1980s.
“Years ago, we used to have people prepare the turkeys at home and bring them to us, people like Sadie Pearson and Evelyn Burns,” Smith said.
“And we asked them to make a pan of dressing with that turkey. Now we are able to do all of the turkeys here. The city didn’t like us having food
brought in even though we weren’t selling it. We didn’t need a health permit because we weren’t selling it. But they said that for sanitary reasons,
it was best to have it done on site.”
The South Madison Thanksgiving meal program has gone citywide.
“We’re doing almost 250 meals,” Smith exclaimed. “Last year, which had been our largest number, was 165. We’ve increased by about 90
deliveries. About 55 of them are from the north-east side. When we met, the north-east side said, ‘We can probably get around 50 this first time,
but we’ll cap it at 75.’ They got 55 people. We’re still delivering on the south side. We’re still working with the South Madison coalition. We
deliver to West Madison. We’re also delivering downtown and in Middleton. We have a few out there. We used to do 120-130 and we were like,
‘Wow, 120?’ Now we have doubled.”
Using the FEED Kitchen meant that there wasn’t any space to have a walk-in Thanksgiving meal. But the volunteer base is going strong as the
South Madison meal volunteers remained while the North/Eastside Senior Coalition helped them pick up some volunteers on the north side to
make the deliveries. There are some volunteers who have been with the meal program for close to 20 years or more.
“We have about 35 drivers,” Smith said. “It used to be about 20 drivers and now we are up to 35 from the south side and the north-east side.
Some of the kids are still involved. They’re grown now. My daughter Tiara who is 23-years-old now is actually delivering meals, her and Maya,
Pam’s daughter. They started out as kids. We have Beverly and her granddaughter who are here every year. And last night, we had Roy and his
daughter here. She crumbled corn bread and got all of this stuff ready for the dressing. It’s a larger family affair.”
While the South Madison Neighborhood Center Thanksgiving meal program has undergone a lot of changes, it has kept to the spirit of that first
Thanksgiving meal of making sure that everyone could enjoy a hot meal on this day for giving thanks.
“I think Mr. Manuel would be proud,” Smith said.
Manuel’s vision has gone citywide.
By Jonathan Gramling
Life is a constant flux with everything making
adjustments and changes according to
conditions and the forces of nature. The old
South Madison Neighborhood Center
Thanksgiving meal for seniors sure has
undergone some changes since it got its start
back in the early 1980s, over 35 years ago.
“It has come a long ways from the early 1980s
when Ed Manuel started the annual
Thanksgiving meal at the South Madison
Neighborhood Center,” said Rev. David Smith,
pastor of the Faith Community Baptist Church. “It
was seniors dining in the gymnasium. They did
entertainment and things like that while they ate
dinner. They had live music like Mary Caire