Sports car drivers aid Bea Gaddy Center with donations

About 60 Corvettes, vintage, new and of every hue, parked four across on a closed-off block of North Chester Street in East Baltimore for several hours Saturday. Members of the Baltimore County Corvette Club had traveled from M&T Bank Stadium with a police escort to the Bea Gaddy Family Center. Each delivered a trunkful of donations, mostly food, for the center's 29th annual Thanksgiving dinner.

Cynthia Brooks, Gaddy's daughter and executive director of the outreach center, thanked an exuberant crowd of volunteers and Corvette owners, who have contributed in increasing numbers since 2006.

"You are all keeping my mother's legacy alive," she said. "You are making Thanksgiving happen for people you don't even know."

A month ago, Brooks was struggling to keep the center open. Amid growing requests for help, she faced empty shelves and unpaid bills. An article in The Baltimore Sun described her plight, and donations have increased ever since.

"It just shows you that when a whole city and county come together, anything is possible," said Keishan Moore, a center volunteer for 18 years.

The food drive on sunny fall Saturday turned into a street festival with lively music and line dancing, until the sports cars vroomed onto the scene. Volunteers helped unload the cars and crammed several large storage containers, similar to those used by moving companies, with non-perishable food.

"These containers were totally empty a week ago," said Al Ladson, who travels to Baltimore from Myrtle Beach, S.C., every year to help prepare and serve the dinner.

Brooks said she could be serving up to 50,000 at the Patterson Park Recreation Center on Nov. 25. A local meat processor donated 35,000 pounds of turkey, but Brooks estimates she will need twice that amount. Vanessa Payne, who has cooked the meal for the last five years, is not worried.

"We will get all we need," Payne said. "We always do. You put a call out and it arrives."

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