Several paper bags were filled with food to make a Thanksgiving dinner by volunteers at the Bluefield Union Mission on Wednesday. Hundreds of people were served during yesterday’s food distribution.

BLUEFIELD — Two anniversaries are making today, Thanksgiving 2021, a very special day for helping people in need give thanks for their community’s generosity.

Today marks the 90th anniversary of Thanksgiving dinners being served at the Bluefield Union Mission, Executive Director Craig Hammond said. Sit down dinners couldn’t be served last year due to the COVID pandemic, but this year dinner will be served for people who might otherwise go hungry today.

“For those who can’t cook or won’t cook, we’ll have a hot meal, a traditional Thanksgiving hot meal with all the fixings,” Hammond said. “That will be Thanksgiving Day, and it’s our 90th Thanksgiving dinner. We had our first on Nov. 26, 1931.”

It’s also a special anniversary for the national holiday. Centuries ago, settlers in what would become the United States of America shared a special meal with the land’s native inhabitants.

“And this is a special year because this is the 400th Thanksgiving if you count the 1621 dinner between the Pilgrims and the Wampamoag tribe; so Thanksgiving is 400 years old today,” Hammond said.

Thanksgiving food bags complete with a turkey and all the traditional trimmings were distributed Wednesday by the union mission. A lot of the cooking for today’s hot Thanksgiving feast was done well in advance; about 200 people are expected today.

Sarah Sult, who works for the mission, did most of today’s cooking.

“We cooked five turkeys, I think,” she estimated. “They were each about 15 pounds.”

And cooking that many turkeys takes a lot of time. The green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls and gravy have to be prepared, too.

“It’s done over a couple of days. We have only two ovens,” Sult said.

Seeing people sit down for a Thanksgiving meal makes all the effort worthwhile, she said.

“They’re just very appreciative and grateful,” Sult said. “They tell you thank you, and it feels good. Oh, it really is (worthwhile) to see the smiles on their faces.”

Today, people wanting Thanksgiving dinner can sit down with their family and friends when it was served up at the union mission. Take out was an option, too, for people who would rather dine at home. Hammond estimated that about 85 percent of the people who arrived for Thanksgiving that last time dinner was served decided to take it home with them.

The Bluefield Union Mission was scheduled to start serving dinner about 11 a.m. today, but people looking for the traditional dinner along with holiday companionship have another option in downtown Bluefield, Va. if they can’t make it to the union mission.

The Grind, a restaurant which opened in July, serves a variety of coffees and food, but its menu was changed for today with free Thanksgiving dinners being offered to the public.

Doors open at 3 p.m. and dinner will be served from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The restaurant’s owner, Collin O’Donnell, said he remembers the days when his mother struggled to put a Thanksgiving dinner on their family’s table. “Actually, it’s kind of personal to me,” he said, adding,”Now I have an opportunity to help people come here with the people they love, without the stress of putting food on the table and wondering where it’s going to come from.”

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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