Vicki Neilson wants to clear up one misconception: This isn’t a soup kitchen. The Giving Heart’s annual Community Thanksgiving Feast, now in its 10th year, is centered on food and fellowship, and everyone is welcome. “We especially seek to include seniors, students — the VCU basketball team comes to eat around noon — the military, as well as the homeless,” says Neilson, the founding and executive director of the Richmond nonprofit.
The meal is expected to draw around 3,000 volunteers and dinner guests from the community and involve three days of food prep. Each year, youth ambassadors ferry greens, mashed potatoes, dressing, turkey, and coffee and dessert carts to seated guests, and hosts — who’ve volunteered a month in advance — chat with guests and decorate tables. This year, a resource room with gratis health screenings, haircuts, live music and gift bags of toiletries will also be provided.
How to help: Visit thegivingheart.org and donate, sponsor or volunteer.
No Family? No Foul
At Thanksgiving, chef/owner Andy Howell of Camden’s Dogtown Market lives up to his reputation: He’s outspoken and unconventional, while remaining extremely generous with the local ingredients served in his Manchester restaurant and market. Howell’s annual Orphans Thanksgiving is open to groups of three or fewer, though guests need not be literal orphans. It’s a rightly unorthodox occasion: Howell smokes his turkeys instead of roasting them and makes all the trimmings on a day others take off to spend with their own families. Friends and regulars step up to assist, relieving the restaurant staff for the day. For $20, you and two of your closest can eat like lords; just don’t try to bring a fourth person along, pilgrim. Last year, Howell turned a party of six away with these words: “If you have more than three people, you can cook your own damn turkey.”
How to help: Call 745-6488 and volunteer your time.
This Thanksgiving, the Coalition of Powhatan Churches is ready to help. The local nonprofit offers food and financial assistance to Powhatan County residents year-round, but this month, it’s collecting at least 200 double-bagged sacks of canned goods, stuffing and Food Lion gift cards so families in need can make Thanksgiving dinner at home. Called the “Thanksgiving Complete Meal,” each kit will come packed with cans of gravy, cranberry sauce, yams — you name it — and even dessert.
How to help: Visit the Coalition of Powhatan Churches website here.
[Editor's Note: Since this story's publication, Pasture has also stepped up to the T-day plate, and will be hosting 80 children and teenagers in foster care for Thanksgiving at the restaurant. If you are in the food service industry, desserts are still needed for the big feast. If you're not and you're still looking to help, donations of toiletries, accessories and other tokens are welcome for gift-bag inclusion. Call Michele Jones at Pasture (804-780-0146) to help.]