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The VIBE: A day to give thanks

thydayAnnual Thanksgiving Dinner
A community tradition

Photos by Shelle Fisher Davis

Feeding 1,400 people on Thanksgiving Day is nothing short of a miracle, swapping loaves and fishes with turkey and potatoes. Despite grand proportions, everyone is fed, and thankful. The Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner at Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks is a celebration of fellowship and giving thanks, with all the trimmings you would expect at a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

This year the 15th Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 28.

Guests will gather at Hudson’s on Thanksgiving Day to give thanks and share in the tradition; all are welcomed to dine at the festive, family-style gathering.

“The purpose of the dinner is contained in its name, it is a community Thanksgiving dinner. Parts of its roots were outreach to those that couldn’t have a Thanksgiving dinner otherwise. However, that wasn’t the only purpose. It also was for people who just didn’t have anywhere else to be for Thanksgiving. It gave them a chance to be with a group and experience a family atmosphere and fellowship on Thanksgiving Day. As it turned out over the years, in addition to those folks, there are families who have made the dinner their Thanksgiving tradition. We get the complete cross-spectrum of groups on the island,” said volunteer David Bisbee.

It’s a true community event that captures the genuine meaning of the holiday and is the result of individuals and groups who saw the need for a gathering of its kind. Through a shared interest in helping the community, Gloria and Allan LaCoe, Hudson’s owner Brian Carmines, and St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church, were all instrumental in the formation of the event.

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“In 1998 there was an article in the Packet the day after Thanksgiving that said ‘lonely locals have no place to go for Thanksgiving.’ And back then there were no restaurants open on Thanksgiving Day. If you look at our population of retirees, spending time with family was a decision between traveling for Thanksgiving or Christmas; most go home for Christmas. Many people stay on Hilton Head for Thanksgiving and they really did not have anywhere to go. Allan and I set out to change that and contacted Betsy Doughtie, who was quoted in the article. Brian Carmines also called,” said Gloria LaCoe.

The event began to take shape and key parties stepped up to lend a helping hand, following the quote in the Island Packet article stating the need for a community dinner from Betsy Doughtie, executive director at The Deep Well Project.

St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church and Hudson’s Seafood on the Docks co-sponsor the event, in addition to generous donations from a handful of local businesses. The dinner also benefits from individuals such as the LaCoes, who are also parishioners at St. Andrew’s.

“We didn’t know what to plan for so we prayed,” said Gloria LaCoe. So they prayed, and they prepared. And they had about 500 people show up for the first dinner in 1999 at Hudson’s.

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The event has grown in size over the years and now serves approximately 1,400 guests each year. The attendees range from those in need of a meal, to those in need of companionship, as well as more than 400 volunteers.

Guests are primarily locals who attend year-after-year, however they see new faces every year. Last year organizers surveyed the attendees and found there were locals from 35 states and 11 countries that had found a home on Hilton Head.

The dinner is free of cost, however all donations benefit The Deep Well Project, a privately funded, volunteer based organization that provides food, clothing and other services to those in need in the Hilton Head community. Last year alone the event raised $8,500 for Deep Well, with more than $42,300 raised total.

In addition to good food and company, guests will enjoy entertainment courtesy of Lowcountry Boil, and Trillium, with face painting and a visit from Santa Claus for the children in attendance.

Transportation can be arranged for those in need. For additional information or to volunteer please call 843-505-1370 or visit CommunityThanksgiving.com.