“Given the economy today we prepared for at least 3,000 people, and I’m glad we did,” she said Thursday.
The free Thanksgiving Day community meal is sponsored by the Concerned Citizens of Rome and Floyd County, chaired by Shield’s father, the Rev. Terrell Shields. Warm clothes also were available for the taking.
Ephron Nelson was smiling as he ticked off all the different dishes he enjoyed: turkey, dressing, sweet peas, turnip greens, rolls, sweet potato pie and a piece to take home. He used to attend regularly in the Feast’s early years, and now, after a few years hiatus, he’s back again.
“I came because I want something good to eat,” he said.
The holiday food makes him remember his mother, Laura Nelson, who passed away on Easter Sunday, 1981. And he gives thanks.
“I’m thankful that the Lord has let me see another Thanksgiving,” he said.
Attendees were a diverse mix of ages, races and genders — including children — but a lot of the diners were middle-aged to elderly people, alone or with friends. Most of the families were among the scores of volunteers manning the buffet tables.
Kameron Fountain, 8, and Reece Fountain, 7, were in charge of keeping the dessert table piled high with slices of chocolate layer cake, pecan pie and cobblers. They wore their rubber serving gloves with good grace and manfully refrained from licking their fingers.
“We like doing this, and we’ll probably keep doing it every year,” Kameron said. “We like helping people.”
Sarai Eubanks, 9, is a veteran volunteer. She said helping people, and the free pizza, keeps her coming back.
That was music to the ears of Rome Pizza Hut owner Kamran Kurani, who greeted people at the door in English or the Spanish he learned when he lived in Los Angeles.
When he opened his restaurants three years ago, Kurani told Shields to “count us in for the rest of your life.” Asked why he’s committed to the Love Feast, he repeated a comment his manager had made to him just a few minutes earlier.
“She said ‘I can’t believe how they rush to the clothing,’” he said.
The clothing piled on tables dwindled fairly quickly, but the food kept on coming until the last plate was filled.
Debbie Williams came with a friend for turkey and fixin’s, and the two left with a selection of desserts to share later in the day. Originally from Marietta, Williams said this was her first year at the Love Feast, and she was impressed by the sense of community.
“What am I thankful for? Being here,” she said. “I love Rome.”