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Volunteers feed hundreds on Thanksgiving day

The Up All Night Thanksgiving dinner fed hundreds of local residents on Thanksgiving Day. The organization’s volunteers work through the night before Thanksgiving and Christmas to make sure people in need get a holiday meal. 

“I’ve been working on this 15 years. This is my fourth time as CEO,” coordinator Jimmy Edwards said. 

The dinner started with a list of Meals on Wheels recipients from First Baptist Church. The church delivers meals daily, and its organizers asked if Jimmy could take over Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“I said I would love to do that,” Edwards said. 

Edwards got his start at the pinnacle of holiday meals, Hosea Williams’ Thanksgiving and Christmas meals in Atlanta during the 80s. Now, Edwards brings his experience to serve the people of LaGrange. 

Up All Night meals are available for pick up on Thanksgiving Day and nearly half are delivered by volunteers.

“Our delivery is so important,” Edwards said. “It’s for our sick, shut-ins, and home-bounds. For people who can’t get out or have no way to get a plate.” 

Edwards estimates 321 plates will be delivered, and another 400 served in the old school building located at 115 E. Cannon St. Most recipients pick up their plates and go.  

“We’ll just keep feeding until we run out,” Edwards said. “If any are leftover, we will take it to anyone in need.”

To make this dinner happen, Edwards relies on a faithful group of volunteers. 

One volunteer is Addie Porter, 88, known as Miss Addie to the Up All Night group. 

“She cooks the dressing and the collard greens. She won’t let anyone mess with her dressing and collard greens,” said Edwards. “And she brings her grandkids.” 

Besides Miss Addie’s two signature dishes, the meal includes turkey, giblet gravy, corn, potato salad, cranberry sauce and cake. 

Another committed volunteer, Jeanette Moore, brings 800 deviled eggs every year. She’s been doing that for 10 years. She, too, brings her family and grandkids. 

“We cook and then the volunteers help pull meat off the turkey, cut the cake, prepare corn and keep the steam table full,” Edwards said.

The team also has a  greeter for people coming in for plates, and a lady who organizes deliveries. A group from CenterState Bank is new this year and will be helping serve. 

Callaway Baptist has come on board this year and Edwards said they have been a big help. 

“Their pastor and their members have been wonderful for our program,” Edwards said. 

Joe Gates has been volunteering over five years. He used to work in school cafeterias and had worked in the very cafeteria where Up All Night serves. 

“I would rather be doing this than anything else,” Gates said. 

Stephanie Dowell drives from Atlanta with her sister to volunteer. Their mom used to bring treats as something special for Edwards. When their mother passed away, they continued her tradition of bringing something for the dinner. 

Edwards spoke highly of all his volunteers and said the work is something he enjoys.

“It’s just the love I have to feed someone,” Edwards said. “If everyone had the love to do for someone else, someone who can’t get what they’ve got—we would all be better off.”

Up All Night is now looking for volunteers for their next meal. 

“We do this at Christmas too. We will have a good feast at Christmas,” Edwards said. “But Christmas Day we only serve the sick and shut-ins because workers are limited.”

If you would like to help at Christmas, or sign up to get a plate, call Edwards at (706) 443.8961. 

“If I can take a frown and turn it upside down,” Edwards said, 

“That’s what I want to do.”