For 33 years, she's been feeding dozens of Sumter's homebound elderly at Thanksgiving, as well as hundreds of mobile residents, and Geraldine Singleton won't let anything stop her. Now, in her early 70s and recovering from a recent illness, she's still determined to serve up turkey, ham, stuffing and all the trimmings on Sunday, Nov. 19.
"I think about all the seniors that are homebound and don't have anyone to make them a Thanksgiving meal," Singleton said. "That's really what keeps me going."
Singleton's mission started three decades ago with a small group of co-workers calling themselves the Today's Ladies Club. The women began delivering sandwiches to seniors, and their project gradually evolved into providing full meals on the Sundays before Thanksgiving and Christmas. For the past five or six years, Singleton has been the only one able to continue.
She's quick to praise the volunteers who now donate money and time to her cause, acknowledging she can't do everything by herself.
Singleton does, however, cook quite a few of the 50 turkeys and hams that feed the multitudes who attend the dinners at the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club in the South Sumter Gym on the corner of South Sumter Street and Atlantic Avenue.
Last year, Singleton said about 1,000 people came to the gym for Thanksgiving dinner, slightly fewer for the Christmas meal. The event has turned into more than just a meal, now with a clothes giveaway and "preaching by Pastor Joshua Dupree and live gospel music," she said.
"A lot of people donate the turkeys, hams, vegetables and desserts," she said. "Businesses and individuals."
In addition to the individuals who donate and volunteer to help serve and clean up, Singleton said she receives donations from Harvin Meats, Sumter Cut Rate, Evergreen and Liberty Seafood. She and volunteers, many church members, cook most of the meal in the kitchen of the Church of the Holy Comforter, which donates use of the facility.
Singleton said she will open the doors to the gym on Sunday, Nov. 19, "after meals have been delivered." She's still looking for donations and volunteers.
To donate or volunteer, call Singleton at (803) 775-2047 or meet her at the Sumter Cut Rate Coffee Shop, 32 S. Main St., between 8:30 and 10 a.m., Monday through Friday.
Thanksgiving dinner will be served from noon until around 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 19, at the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and South Sumter Street. There is no charge for the meal.