16 years and counting… Community honors memory of beloved mayor, football coach by serving thousands of Thanksgiving meals

Published 7:04 am Monday, November 21, 2022

For 16 years, one Mississippi community has been honoring the memory of a beloved mayor and longtime football coach by feeding more than 1,000 people each Thanksgiving.

The 16th annual 2022 Doug Sullivan Community Thanksgiving Meal will be Thanksgiving Day from 11 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

The meal’s namesake Doug Sullivan was a former mayor of Brookhaven and a longtime Brookhaven High School football coach. When he died suddenly in 2007, the members of his First United Methodist Church family wanted to honor his memory.

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Discussions settled on something that would allow church members to fulfill Sullivan’s longstanding tradition of helping others. Fully living out the mantra of Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, to “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can,“ they decided that providing a delicious, hot Thanksgiving meal to anyone, no matter what their economic circumstances or family dynamics, would be the best way to give back just as Coach Sullivan would have wanted.

So the Doug Sullivan Community Thanksgiving Meal was born.

Not even the global pandemic of 2020 interrupted the annual tradition. More than 1,300 Lincoln County residents were fed that year by carryout and delivery, and more than 1,500 were served in 2021.

This year, people are invited to eat-in at the Brookhaven FUMC Ministry Center on South Jackson Street, behind the downtown Post Office. Diners may also pick up plates or request delivery. Those needing meals should call organizer Jennifer Calhoun at 601-695-0600 or the church office at 601-833-3519 and leave a message with their name, address, phone number and the number of meals they will need. Anyone leaving a message should say whether they intend to pick them up or need delivery.

Calhoun said trying to feed everyone “sometimes feels like the fishes and the loaves, but it always works out. We’ve never had to turn anyone away. We hope we never do.”

The church needs volunteers to help prepare items in advance, as well as Thanksgiving Day volunteers to prepare, deliver and hand-out plates. Volunteers are needed for as long as they have available, even if it’s only for a short time. They are needed beginning about 5 p.m. Tuesday and during the day Wednesday, as well as beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday.

“It’s a great opportunity to not only help yourself, but also help others,” a message from the church stated. “If you can’t participate in person, we also need monetary donations to purchase turkeys, and donations of prepared desserts — either homemade or store-bought.”

The meals are not restricted — anyone can request one, Calhoun said.