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35th annual Bea Gaddy Thanksgiving feeds thousands in the City

35th Bea Gaddy Thanksgiving feeds thousands
Posted at 5:46 PM, Nov 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-25 19:12:39-05

For the 35th time, Baltimore community members gathered at the annual Bea Gaddy Thanksgiving dinner in Patterson Park to feed thousands of people.

Preparations for the massive community meal started as early as 5 a.m. Volunteers came together to help put food on the table for the holiday.

“I'm just thinking about all the things that I have that I am blessed with and I know there are so many people out there who are less fortunate or are out on the streets and don't have anything, so I just wanted to give back and do what I can,” said first-time volunteer Sandy Cromwell.

The annual event all started with Cynthia Brooks' mom Bea Gaddy. In 1981, Gaddy won $250 in the lottery. She used that money to feed 49 of her neighbors on Thanksgiving Day

“Thirty-five Thursdays of Thanksgiving Day. Thirty-five and it started as just a small little thing and now it's grown,” said Brooks, who is also the director of The Bea Gaddy Family Center.

Around a thousand volunteers all pitched in to feed tens of thousands. It's a tradition for those who eat at the event and for those who continue to serve each year.

“I see friends that started with my mother with their grandchildren out here today,” Brooks said.

Terence Speas has attended the annual dinner for 25 years. He knew Bea Gaddy personally and is thankful for her giving spirit back then and today.

“She was really an angel towards me when I was homeless and had no place to stay. She gave to me and helped me,” Speas said.

New to the event this year is Philip Coleman. He didn’t know about the luncheon until a few friends told him about it just a few days before.

“I thought about it, I said well I'm not going anywhere I'm sitting in the house by myself, so I'll go over in the morning and see what it's like,” said Coleman.

Thousands waited several hours outside the Patterson Park Community Center for the meal service to begin,. For those unable to make it there, volunteers delivered meals to those also in need of a helping hand.

The annual day of giving could be up in the air after this year. The Bea Gaddy headquarters is currently under foreclosure.

“We’re waiting to see who the owner is and hopefully we'll come out okay,” said Brooks.

She added that the Center will continue to serve turkey dinners as long as they can. In the meantime, they enjoyed the day and the people they were able to help.

“Like Bea Gaddy said, it's hard to understand how a person goes home and doesn't have anything to eat and their bellies are empty in the morning. So, this is a blessing that we can all come together and have something to be thankful for,” said Speas.