Nov. 27, 2008 What would Thanksgiving be without George Goodwin carving at the Salvation Army kitchen, without Gov. John deJongh Jr. serving that turkey along with another army of volunteers; without Francine Penn-Scipio and family at Emancipation Garden, without the V.I. Sun Bar and Grill on Curacao Gade blaring "O Holy Night" over its $7 meal sign; without the nicely dressed man stepping up for a free meal with his fellows just "to be with others today"; or without Geronimo Evans and his "goat patrol."
The answer: likely not much fun. or not where you'd want to spend this day of giving. It's what the governor said to those gathered at the Salvation Army chapel, "An opportunity to come together, a chance for people to say 'thank you.' More than any other day," deJongh said, "it's about community."
The day seems to bring out the best in everyone.
"It's truly a day of giving," said Salvation Army Major Federico Craig, and everyone agreed. He said by the end of the day they will have served about 200 folks.
The small chapel was overflowing with people enjoying the mountains of food, the camaraderie, the lively tambourines keeping the beat to Army hymns. And being served by their gracious governor, decked out in apron and a white paper server's hat, was icing on the cake.
It's what has brought former senator George Goodwin to the minuscule kitchen at the Salvation Army for "maybe the last 33 years," he said, wiping his brow, "I've lost count."
"I haven't," said turkey trooper Lorna Barnes:" I've been here in the kitchen with George for the past 17 years. I do the rice, the macaroni and cheese," she says. "It's a pleasure to give something back. I tell people I see in the street on the way here, 'Don't be too proud; please come and have something to eat with us.' And, they do. This teaches you to be humble about what you have."
Volunteers, some new this year the youngsters from the Lutheran Church of the Reformation and the Channel 12 "Graffiti Street" teenage crew and some traditionals such as Sandra Kelly, who comes each year, served along the line-up where the volunteers dish out turkey, ham, cole slaw, potato stuffing, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies to other volunteers who, laden with trays, serve the mountains of food.
Lynelle Niles, wearing a big smile and a bright red T-shirt with a Delta Sigma Theta logo, was helping serve the mounds of wonderful smelling food traditionally prepared by the Penn-Scipio family at Emancipation Garden. "It's a wonderful thing to do," she said. "We've been doing this for years."
Francine Penn-Scipio, resplendent in a bright orange hat and dress, beamed as folks came to eat and visit. "I simply like doing this," she said. "People are lonely, they need company. I used to work in Mental Health," she said, "and on Fridays we would serve a meal. They appreciated it."
With all that cooking, how did this week's massive power outage affect the cooking? "The one's who don't eat meat were affected the most," she said. "I wanted to get snapper, but it was so expensive I had to get kingfish."
Penn-Scipio said she and her family and friends have been doing this "for years, except a couple years after Hurricane Marilyn in 1995." "We always get volunteers," she said. "There are so many good people here. Those girls over there in the pink T-shirts came today I don't even know who they are."
Turns out they are "Girls on the Go," a not-for-profit group who offer a big sister program, said leader Camela Francis. "We mentor girls from two to 17," she said. "We help them to attain self-esteem, and we try to do something in the community, like this."
Now, about those goats. Geronimo Evans sat outside Ulla Muller Elementary School early Thursday with three goats happily bounding about.
"These are my pets," he said. "Cecilita, Matilda and Lolita." Evans said the trio of three-month old goats had become his to raise after their mother died. "They're my goat patrol," he said as he fed Lolita a milk spiked with coffee.
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