Good will, good food are shared Family gatherings, voluntarism mark Md. Thanksgiving

November 28, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Sandra Johnson loves Thanksgiving. Just don't ask her to cook.

Yesterday, Johnson managed to pull off what many Americans would consider a holiday miracle. She gathered about 70 of her relatives from three states, promising food and family memories. Her culinary contribution? Green beans.

"I told my mother 'I'll pay for the hall, I'll organize everything, but I am not cooking,' " said Johnson, 32, standing in a Northwest Baltimore fraternity house she rented to hold all her relatives. "I'm a '90s woman, but I am not a cooking woman."

Johnson may not have cooked yesterday, but other Maryland hands stuffed turkeys, glazed hams, baked casseroles, made cheesecakes and cooked pumpkin pies to celebrate the

American holiday of sharing.

And share they did. Across the state, residents shared food, good will and time.

That's Amore restaurant shut its doors in Towson and delivered dinner to men, women and children living in crisis shelters. Jane Roth, a social worker at a Washington hospital, put on a Thanksgiving dinner with other staff members for hospitalized patients and their families -- a handy surgeon carved the turkey.

Robert Jones fried pounds of sausages for dozens of East Baltimore residents to get their day started off right. At Bea Gaddy's traditional Thanksgiving feast, there was turkey for 47,000 needy people and a line that stretched two city blocks. Toay Caesar, homeless but dressed in his Sunday best, enjoyed every bite.

Mike Noel and his wife, Pat Eberman, drove from Perryville to Baltimore to volunteer at Bea Gaddy's. They arrived at 8: 30 a.m. and started work immediately. The couple -- who had never volunteered there before -- said the decision to forgo Thanksgiving with their family was an easy one.

"She didn't want to cook and I didn't want to hunt. So we compromised and said, 'Let's go to Bea Gaddy's,' " said Noel, a sheet metal mechanic.

Besides, he added, once he told family members where he was && going, they wanted to come, too.

In fact, the spirit of voluntarism at Gaddy's yesterday was so great that Eberman joked there were practically more volunteers helping to serve than people to be served.

As the couple spoke, a family of four approached and asked where they could go to volunteer.

"Over there, down the steps and to your left," Noel, 34, told them. "Fight among the other 5,000 volunteers."

Eberman said, "It's good to see the good side of things rather than the bad."

For George Hicks the sight of a full plate of eggs, sausage and grits yesterday morning was nothing but good.

He went to the East Baltimore Elks Lodge 1043 where a local political organization cooked a free breakfast. The breakfast was meant not to only to fill hungry stomachs, but to bridge the gap between Asian-Americans and African-Americans.

Relations between the two groups were strained early this year, when several Korean merchants were robbed and some slain, raising questions about whether Korean-Americans were being targeted.

Yong Kim, a Korean-American grocery distributor, donated food to the Greater East Baltimore Political Organization, an African-American group, hoping to foster good will in inner-city neighborhoods.

"I think Thanksgiving is a good time to share your kindness with everybody," Kim said, sitting on a bar stool at the lodge. "This helps them know that people like us care."

Robert Jones, president of the organization, said the holiday is a good time to chip away at the walls that separate the groups.

"I see it as, if you live in this city, you're really one big family," Jones said.

A smile spread across Hicks' face when he was told that Kim had donated the food.

"I thought they would never do anything like that," said Hicks, who lives in a nearby shelter. "I feel wonderful."

Marian Harding, Sandra Johnson's aunt, was smiling, too. She said she enjoys her family's tradition of spending Thanksgiving together because it means they can see each other for a happy occasion.

"Most of the times families only get to see each other at funerals. And they say, 'Let's get together more often,' and it doesn't happen until another funeral," Harding said as she laid out pound cake and pie in preparation for the family feast.

As she spoke, Johnson darted around the fraternity house, which was decorated with paper turkeys and banners.

For a woman who had cooked as little as possible, the holiday meal was set to be totally satisfying.

"I know some people aren't close to their families, and I feel sad for them. Life is too short, so you have to get over whatever gripes and obstacles you have," Johnson said, "because in the ** end they're the ones there for you."

Pub Date: 11/28/97

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