There’s a bit of a storied history of the event that has come to be known as the Feast of Giving. Previously sponsored by a corporate foundation, in 2008 they decided to give it up as a major event, but Dayton wasn’t ready to let it go quietly. In fact, there was quite an uproar. Now, a true community effort – with the combined support of Dermatologists of Southwest Ohio, Stratacache, Lastar, RTA, ABC22/FOX45 and hundreds of partners and volunteers – this is the fifth year that it has been the Feast of Giving.
I had heard about this free Thanksgiving meal, but never really understood what it was. Without taking the time to learn about it, I assumed it was a large-scale soup kitchen set-up. Just like I wouldn’t take advantage of the generosity of a service organization feeding the homeless on any other day, I sure wasn’t going to go in for a meal on Thanksgiving.
I sure was wrong.
The Feast of Giving, Thanksgiving in Dayton is an event that reaches out to bring the entire community together. It is a dinner, a celebration, a community event based on the following principles:
To provide a dinner for anyone that might be spending the holiday alone.
To provide a dinner for those that are homeless or less fortunate.
To provide a dinner for anyone who wants to attend.
I talked to a couple people who work behind the scenes to make the event happen. Leslie Barrow, from the Dayton Convention Center – the host of the annual event – shared that over the last five years it really has become a huge community event. Complete with live music by the Chris Bowman Band, guests eat, drink, dance and celebrate the day. Kids have their own room with special kid-themed arts, crafts, tattoos, music and more. Plus, Ident-A-Kid will be there providing their services.
Continuing the family theme, for those who need – gloves, hats and coats are available to keep kids and adults warm as winter blows into Dayton.
Although there are many services for those who may need extra support, this is a community party for every. Barrow shared that in the past, she’s visited a friend from church each Thanksgiving. When Barrow asked about this year, her friend said, “I’m not cooking this year – I’m coming (to the Feast of Giving) with you. I’m 65; I want to volunteer and enjoy the meal and the day.” The fact that it’s a party for the whole community is reflected in the numbers – the number of guests coming through the lines has doubled in the last 5 years. Barrow says, “it’s a wonderful melting pot of people – a true reflection of this country and our community.”
Last year, they broke a record with over 8,500 attendees and they’re prepared for all that and more. The volunteer slots are all taken – but you can still enjoy the meal and the day. There’s room at the table (and on the dance floor and in the crafts room and at the karaoke stage) for you and your family. Join in the community celebration. With the party happening from 11AM – 2PM, you can enjoy lunch with your neighbors in the region and dinner with your family.
Kathy Shearer from Ovations Food Service (the catering company that handles all the food preparation) shared that the Feast is a “true community event.” Shearer has noticed many changes since the event has become the “Feast of Giving.” She lists so many reason why there’s a great positive feeling from everyone – no ticket is required, it’s all-you-can-eat, there are plenty of events and everyone has a great time. Is it a family event? Shearer shared the story of a multi-generational family of 28 people who came to the Feast because there wasn’t room in anyone’s home to get that many people around a table. There’s plenty of room at the Feast!
RTA buses are free from anywhere to downtown until 4PM, and guests who drive can park in the Transportation Center Garage for free.
Over 500 volunteers come together to make the event a reality. But don’t plan on deciding to help out at the last minute – all the volunteer slots have been filled since late September by families, church groups, organizations, individuals and friends. People are still calling, and the team has to turn away volunteers every year. (If you really want to get in on the action of serving, House of Bread and many other great service organizations accept volunteers 365 days/year.) Donations to this great event are accepted through a fund at The Dayton Foundation.
Starting at 2AM, the Ovations staff will be there to start the cooking in preparation for an 11AM doors open. What will they be cooking? Here’s the feast by the numbers:
- 8,500 served in 2012 – and room for more in 2013
- 2,617 lbs turkey (that’s a ton + a quarter!) donated by Cooper Farms
- 800 lbs cole slaw
- 2,000 lbs green beans
- 2,000 lbs cranberry sauce
- 2,000 lbs mashed pot
- 2,000 lbs stuffing
- 100 gallons gravy
- 10,000 dinner rolls
- 10,000 ice cream cups
- 1,300 pies (fruit, sweet potato, pumpkin and chocolate cream)
Mike-Sells, Wallingford, Produce One, Victory Grocers, I Supply, and Ovations all donated food to make the event happen. Leftovers will go to House of Bread and St. Vincent de Paul to continue the spirit of giving.
Shearer shared that the Feast of Giving is an event that everyone should experience. “When you leave at the end of the day, it’s very humbling – it’s awesome. You don’t even care that you worked Thanksgiving. People are having a blast.” Join the party between 11AM-2PM on Thanksgiving.