In 2009, Toyo Tire Manufacturing Company expressed a desire to hold a dinner for the community. This year, along with 242 volunteers and various businesses and organizations throughout the community, the event was created with high success. Laughter and smiles could be found around the entire center as people chatted and enjoyed a meal of turkey, ham, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce and deserts catered by Stonewall Manor. The 400 sweets were provided by the manor as well as homemade selections from volunteers.
Tina and Parnick Jennings, organizers of the event, have been working since September with a committee of volunteers, many from last year's dinner, as opposed to the hastened three weeks of planning in 2009. Fundraisers were organized to help raise the $18,000 needed to coordinate the gathering. As part of the occasion, coats were collected to give to those in need. This year, over 700 coats were donated.
Parnick Jennings said, "Shop Bartow was one of the fundraisers. People bought a $25 ticket to use at participating shops and restaurants in Cartersville and Bartow County."
Jennings also stated along with Toyo as the major funding contributor, charitable organizations and individual donations were accepted to make the event possible. Bartow County schools and municipalities participated as well in recruiting volunteers, while others came from churches and individuals who saw flyers or heard the call on the radio for the need of a smiling face.
A band from North Point Church in Adairsville entertained the crowd with Christmas carols and hymns as those present carried on conversations over the meal. Civil Air Patrol volunteers were scattered throughout the building as well as the parking lot to direct traffic and join their fellow recruits in greeting and assisting guests.
Tina Jennings, constantly surrounded by thankful families and volunteers, said she hopes everyone will "have fun, eat and stay warm. If anyone needs a coat I hope they will get one and have a great Christmas."
The luncheon began at 11 a.m., and around noon Jennings stated that at least 500 plates had already been delivered and more would be expected. People there could also take a plate home with them for later or the next day.
Although the center was crowded soon after the doors opened, an estimated 3,000 or more people were expected to be served as the celebration continued. Local churches gathered plates to take to those who could not be present at the center.
A beaming Tina Jennings said, "This is my Christmas."
Volunteer Adam Jernigan of Love Loud Awareness stood outside the coat room and commented that he "wanted to serve the community. This is a great opportunity to get involved and help."
To gather the coats, Jernigan said, "We went to different businesses and picked up coats they had collected along with other community donations."
Bree Nelson, another volunteer, said she got involved because the luncheon is a good way to help the community.
Luncheon guest Carole Worthington and her daughter, Cheryl McCurley, said they loved the music and the food was excellent.
"There were so many deserts," McCurley said. "I stood at the table for 15 minutes trying to decide what to get."
Both arrived early so to avoid missing anything. "The people can't be nicer," both said. "They're always asking, 'Do you need anything? Can I get something for you?' It's a wonderful event."
Worthington, who is older, said, "This is a good way for people like me to get out and visit with others."
Joyce Phillips and Amy Hicks, also guests to the dinner, called the gathering a "wonderful" thing to do for the community. With regard to the coats, Hicks stated that she "saw a boy earlier with a race car coat, snuggled up and very happy. It was a great feeling to see him."
Tina Jennings stated that next year's Community Christmas Luncheon will be held Dec. 10. Anyone wishing to volunteer for next year may contact Jennings at 678-899-9525.