Coming together for day of thanks

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

For the Rev. Jeff Cremeans, Thanksgiving has always been a big deal - with an emphasis on big.

As many families gather together today to enjoy a holiday meal together, Cremeans and an extended family of sorts will gather at the Ironton City Welfare Mission to serve dinner to those less fortunate or those who are, perhaps, simply lonely.

The Thanksgiving dinner at the mission has been a tradition for the last 60 years.

Email newsletter signup

For the 43-year-old Cremeans, who is now the director of the city mission and pastor of its church, the annual dinner started 18 years before he was born.

Earlier this year, he succeeded his father, the Rev. Jim Cremeans, who retired after nearly 39

years at the helm of the organization that provides both physical and spiritual sustenance to area families.

&#8220For us, this is the only kind of Thanksgiving we have known,” Jeff said. He and his siblings learned from their parents, Jim and his wife, Mary, the value and necessity of service to one's community. They passed it along to their children.

&#8220When I was little I shined apples,” Amy Stephens said as she tore loaves of bread into pieces for stuffing.

She is one of Jim and Mary Cremeans' grandchildren who were on hand Wednesday to help prepare food for Thursday's dinner.

&#8220All the children shine apples when they're little. And they decorate and set the tables.”

And when they are old enough, they take a place alongside other adults and help mix ingredients for dressing or cole slaw in galvanized wash tubs. Several ladies stood around a long banquet table doing just that Wednesday morning. The day before Thanksgiving, food preparation is nearly an all-day job.

Dollie Borders and Naomi Clark are church members and faithful volunteers who also spent Wednesday preparing for today's dinner.

&#8220I just sometimes feel like this is where The Lord wants me to be,” Borders replied when she was asked why, for the last five years, she has volunteered to help those less fortunate. &#8220I love my church and anything going on. I like to be of help.”

Clark and Borders will be among those today serving the food to those who ask for a plate.

&#8220Why not?” Clark said. &#8220It's better than sitting at home.”

Last year, 449 people either ate their Thanksgiving dinner at the mission or asked for a meal to be brought to them. Jeff Cremeans said he expects that many or more this year.

&#8220It fluctuates but it stays in that area,” Cremeans said. &#8220But it seems like its (the number of needy families) really growing. Last year, we fixed 25 20-pound turkeys and we had nothing left. There is a need our there.”

What does it take to feed 449 people besides 25 20-pound turkeys?

The city mission meal also requires 100 loaves of bread for the dressing, 100 pounds of cabbage and three pounds of carrots for the cole slaw, 80 pumpkin pies, 5 gallons of cranberry sauce, 39 gallon of green beans, and 12-24 boxes of instant mashed potatoes.

This, perhaps, explains why so many volunteers are needed.

&#8220Some ladies in the church take home the turkeys and fix them and have them ready Thursday morning,” Cremeans said. &#8220The rest of the food is made here on site. Usually the last person leaves at 3:30 in the afternoon.

&#8220Some of the young people show up about 9 (a.m.) and they like to help decorate and some of them like to help deliver the meals.”

Thanksgiving dinner is served at noon.

Cremeans said some people renew their focus on the needy during the holidays and he is glad they see this need and step forward to help fill it. But, he said, the needs within the community do not cease when the holidays and accompanying spirit of good will pass.

&#8220The need,” he said, &#8220is here year-round.”