With uncooked food being delivered and not enough people to prepare it, leaders at Bea Gaddy Family Center on Wednesday feared they wouldn't be ready in time to serve thousands of Thanksgiving Day meals for needy residents.

After a public plea for help, more than 20 chefs showed up overnight to help prepare the meals — as many as 40,000, according to organizers — for poor and homeless residents who came to the luncheon Thursday.


"It started our rough, but it ended up being pretty good," said Cynthia Brooks, director at Bea Gaddy. "It was a successful day."

The luncheon has been taking place since 1981. In addition to a hot meal, patrons get food to help get them through the long weekend. Many of the bags included the traditional fixings such as turkeys, potatoes and corn.

Volunteers arrived before the sun rose Thursday at the Patterson Park Recreation Center to help package food to be delivered across the city, Brooks said. It takes volunteers hours and hours to organize the dining tables and sort tens of thousands of bags of food.

As of 2:30 p.m., Brooks said, the last of the meals were being delivered across the city.

The late Bea Gaddy founded the Patterson Park Emergency Food Center in 1981. She went to local churches collecting food in a shopping cart and passed the food out to the neighbors in her community, according to the center's website.

Even with the adversity facing the city in the wake of the April's riots, a positive message was sent when volunteers showed up Thursday, Brooks said, adding: "It's a testament to the type of neighbors we are to each other."