The D.C. Convention Center was transformed into a crossroads of humanity during the 14th Annual Safeway Feast of Sharing Event Wednesday morning.
From Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) to singer Raheem Devaughn and cheerleaders for the Washington Redskins, leaders and luminaries from across the region were on hand to serve a holiday meal to about 5,000 needy residents. As in previous years, the dinner-- consisting of turkey, mashed potatoes, biscuits and other holiday treats-- was organized for the city’s unemployed city.
“This is a wonderful time, and while I got a chance to eat, I really enjoy serving other people," said Mary Gravely, 79, who joined other seniors from Southeast Washington to participate inthe event.
Even though the Wilson High School Football team will take on H.D. Woodson on Thanksgiving Day during the city's annual Turkey Bowl, players from both teams served sweet potato pie and greeted seniors at the convention center.
Mark Martin, head coach for the Wilson Tigers, said his team will still practice Wednesday evening even though they volunteered during the day.
"We try to get the kids to see that there are things more than football," said Martin whose sentiments were echoed by the H.D. Woodson players and coaches.
Gray said that the event was much more than a meal.
“Thanksgiving is a time for giving and sharing,” Gray said. “Not just to loved ones but to people in need. That is why Feast For Sharing is so important."
In addition to the meal, stations were set up this year for people to get free clothes, diabetes screening and other health services.
One group happy to on hand was from Masjid Muhammad Mosque No. 4 in Northwest.
“This is my first time here," said 70-year-old Abdul Rashid. "This is a social activity of thanks."
Willie Jolley, motivational speaker and author, was one of the many speakers at the event.
"As People of faith we are taught that the greatest among us are the ones who serve," Jolley said. "When I think about my life and how God has blessed me, I have an attitude of gratitude and a positive attitude is just as important as money."