Shoppers were enticed by more than just holiday deals as they walked along Davis Street on Black Friday.
The smell of homemade chili, soup, fresh cornbread and a handful of other confections wafted up Davis Street from the Culpeper Depot, where members of Mount Olive Baptist Church were hard at work spreading holiday cheer downtown.
It was the second year in a row Mount Olive, located on Whiteshop Road in the county, has provided free Thanksgiving meals to the community. More than a dozen members of its congregation, including deacons, ministers, pastors and youth group members, banded together in 40-degree temperatures to make sure the event went off without a hitch.
“Last year, we cooked Thanksgiving dinner and took it to various motels in Culpeper where displaced families were staying,” said Deacon Ruth Irving-Carroll. “We decided to bring it outside this year, so we sent special invitations directly to Culpeper Human Services clients so that they would come. We also expanded it to serve the general population.”
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Daphney Barrett, a pastor at Mount Olive, said the turnout for the event, which ran noon-2 p.m., was fairly steady.
“People started trickling in at the start, and we had pretty consistent traffic afterward,” she pointed out. “This was all about community service and putting smiles on people’s faces, which I saw a lot of today.”
In addition to the chili, soup and cornbread, Mount Olive’s spread included fresh rolls, fruit and various desserts.
“I can’t express how proud I am of our volunteers for working so hard to make this delicious food for the community,” Barrett added.
Those who sampled the offerings seemed pleased—and extremely grateful.
“The chili and cornbread were delicious,” said Jill Clark, who was out shopping downtown with daughters Madison and Kaley. “I think it’s great that [Mount Olive] put this together.”
“I received an invitation, and when I got here I was blown away by not only the food, but the kindness of the volunteers,” Bill Hill said. “I appreciate what they’re doing. I know it made my day, and I’m sure the same is true for a lot of other people as well.”
Fifteen-year-old Amari Jackson, a member of Mount Olive’s youth group, expressed a sense of gratification at seeing so many smiles over the course of the afternoon.
“I know there are a lot of people in Culpeper that unfortunately don’t get to experience a family Thanksgiving,” she said. “We tried to give them a little bit of both today: good food and a welcoming environment.”
“This is our way of sharing our blessings,” Irving-Carroll concluded. “We are blessed, we are thankful, we are grateful, and this is our way of sharing that with others.”