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Deliveries bring warm meals, smiles

Cora Johnson’s face lit up like a Christmas tree.

Her eyes sparkled and a smile spread across her face at the sight of visitors at her door.

“We’ve brought you Thanksgiving dinner,” Brundidge Police Chief Moses Davenport said.

Johnson opened the door wide and welcomed her guests.

“This is so wonderful,” she said. “Just so wonderful.”

Davenport and the Rev. Willie Moultry spent a few minutes with Johnson before speeding off to deliver more Thanksgiving dinners to shut-ins and the elderly. She had lots to say and hugs all around.

“This means so much to those who aren’t able to get out a lot,” Moultry said. “It’s the fellowship of visitors as much as it is the food. Just to know that there’s somebody that cares can make someone’s day. When you show love, faces do light up like Christmas trees.”

Davenport and Moultry were among the many volunteers who gathered at Brundidge Station on Wednesday to serve and deliver the annual community Thanksgiving dinner furnished “with love” by Cornelius Griffin, a Brundidge son who plays professional football with the Washington Redskins. Griffin was a prep star at Pike County High School and a standout at the University of Alabama. But with all of his success, Griffin has never forgotten about the place he calls home.

In 2001, Griffin wanted to give something back to the community that nurtured him as a youngster and supports and encourages him now.

“Cornelius wanted to do something to show his appreciation,” said his mother Martha Griffin. “One day, he called me and said he wanted to provide Thanksgiving dinner for the elderly people of our community and the sick and shut-ins. With the help of many others, we are able to do it.”

Cornelius Griffin provides the turkeys and hams, and Robert Boyd of the Tarentum community, supplies the homegrown turnips, collards and sweet potatoes. The ladies at Lily White Church of the Living God and Jerusalem Temple prepare the food and help serve. Members of the Brundidge Rotary Club and other volunteers assist with the delivery of the plates.

And, Martha Griffin is right in the middle of it all. She does all of the washing of the greens and that’s a monumental task for anyone and a lot of the from-scratch cooking.

“I’ve been cooking all week,” she said, with a smile. “But I love doing this. So many people benefit from it. Every year, it seems like we are able to reach more people. The first year, I think we served about 300 people. This year, we’re fixing about 351 carryout plates and then we have people that come here to eat. We’ll probably feed close to 500 people. Maybe more.”

Griffin estimated that between 3,500 and 4,000 Thanksgiving meals have been served since that first Thanksgiving. And after each community Thanksgiving dinner, Griffin goes home to start preparing Thanksgiving dinner for her own family.

But before she can get the oven warm, the phone call comes from her son.

“Cornelius always calls to see how things went,” Griffin said. “This is something that he enjoys. It’s his Thanksgiving.”

And, “her” family Thanksgiving is yet to be done.

“I’ll have about 30 for Thanksgiving dinner and it’s a blessing for all of us to be together.” she said.

“As much of a joy as it is for my family to be together, I think that I get even more joy from the community Thanksgiving dinner because so many of those people would not have had a Thanksgiving meal. That brings me special joy at this time of year.”