Local singer hosting holiday meal for the ‘masses’

By Tom Joyce

November 23, 2013

Apparently, it’s not enough just to say that an annual Thanksgiving feast at First Baptist Church will be for the whole community.

“I’ve got a new word now — it’s open to the masses,” organizer Melva Houston said Friday, using a term referring to “a considerable assemblage” of people of all ages, races, religions, social standings and nationalities she hopes will attend this year.

“The whole thing that I want people to understand is that this is for the community,” added Houston, an internationally known blues singer who is sponsoring the free Thanksgiving meal in the church fellowship hall for the 17th year.

“This is a community dinner for anybody,” Houston said, mentioning that the backs of fliers she distributed announcing Thursday’s dinner include details of the event in Spanish.

“It’s for everyone,” Houston stressed.

“We usually end up with about 450 every year,” she of attendance for the meal which seems to be growing.

Serving is planned Thursday from noon to 4 p.m. The menu will consist of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, including turkey, dressing, green beans, cranberry sauce and more.

About 20 to 25 volunteers devote part of their Thanksgiving Day to fill such roles as servers to make the annual event in the large dining room of the church on North Main Street a success. Some have been assisting with the dinner since it was launched in 1996 by a group known as Citizens for a Brighter Tomorrow made up of Houston and others, which is still involved.

One of the goals is providing a warm, inviting place for all members of the community to spend Thanksgiving, especially those who live alone, families who can’t cook a meal of their own for some reason or don’t have relatives nearby. The meal also serves as a kind of reunion for area residents who attend year after year and enjoy the special holiday fellowship it provides.

Houston said the event is made possible with the help of food donations from area businesses, along with individuals.

In particular, she mentioned Walmart in Mount Airy, which is supplying 30 frozen turkeys for the occasion along with dressing, and Trio Restaurant & Bar, the green beans.

“It is a lot of work,” Houston said of the different components that must be assembled for the dinner.

But there is only one requirement for those who attend, Houston said.

“Just come and eat.”

Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or