Meet Me at the Court to host second community dinner

Holiday celebrations planned throughout December

Volunteers served dozens of free meals on Nov. 5 at the 10th annual Sharion Bailey Whitlock Community Soul Food Dinner. A second community dinner is tentatively planned for Dec. 9. (Matt Hutcheson/News-Times)
Volunteers served dozens of free meals on Nov. 5 at the 10th annual Sharion Bailey Whitlock Community Soul Food Dinner. A second community dinner is tentatively planned for Dec. 9. (Matt Hutcheson/News-Times)

Tis' the season for giving for Meet Me at the Court, who is coordinating a long list of holiday activities that keeps growing.

The nonprofit organization hosted its 10th annual community Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 4.

Those who did not get one of the 400 plates that were served will have another chance to partake in a home-cooked soul food meal.

On Wednesday, Veronica Bailey, president and CEO of MMC, announced that the group is planning a second holiday dinner for the community.

Dubbed the Sharion Bailey Whitlock Community Soul Food Dinner: Good Food for the Body and Soul, Part 2, the dinner is tentatively set for noon on Dec. 9 in the rear parking lot of the TAC House, 1101 N. West Ave.

The dinner is free and open to the public and meals will be served in a drive-through format.

Bailey emphasized a request for participants to remain in their vehicles so that the food-service line runs smoothly.

She said the SBWCSFD will incorporate fare that is traditionally served during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

"We'll have the turkey and dressing, macaroni and cheese and all of the other foods that we have for the Thanksgiving dinner but we'll also have the blackeye peas and cabbage and the other foods that people eat on New Year's (Day) for good luck," Bailey said.

Bailey marveled at the number and diversity of people from El Dorado, Union County and beyond who participated in the community dinner on Nov. 4.

She invited a local homeless man to the dinner and in turn, he shared the news with other unhoused people in the city and brought them along to get a plate.

They arrived on foot, Bailey said.

She said the image so moved her, that the idea to plan a second community dinner seeped into her subconscious earlier this week.

Bailey said she had vivid dreams in the early morning hours on Monday and Tuesday.

In each dream, MMC was hosting community feedings in El Dorado -- one of which was in the very spot of the SBWCSFD, Bailey described.

"Two dreams back to back? This was telling me something and I said, 'Uh-uh. I've got to answer that call right there,'" she said. "It shows that there's a need there."

Bailey said she reached out to MMC staff, including the Kitchen Committee, and other volunteers.

To her surprise, they all leapt at a second chance to feed and engage in fellowship with the community.

"When I called my son (James Curley) and told him that I was going to do another feeding, he said, 'Now, what, Mother?!'" she shared with a laugh.

"But he (immediately) began planning the layout of how he wanted me to go to make things run more smoothly," Bailey continued with a laugh. "I thought I was going to get a whupping but everybody has been so positive about it. They're falling in line with it and we're excited and ready to get to work."

Bailey said MMC youth members will serve plates and if their schedule allows, members of the Sugar Town Riders Motorcycle Club will also assist, as they did for the dinner on Nov. 4.

Bailey said volunteers will deliver plates to those who request the service.

"All they have to is call me by Dec. 2 for deliveries and give me their name, address and (phone) number so we'll know how many plates we'll need and where we'll need to go," Bailey said.

Other holiday activities

Bailey said MMC has already selected a local family to receive the SBW Angel Tree for 2023.

A decorated Christmas tree will be delivered Saturday to the family of Wanda Newton.

MMC is also accepting submissions for the 2023 Sharion's Angel Tree project, in which gifts will be delivered to families who sign up.

By late Wednesday afternoon, Bailey said she had already received nearly 50 submissions.

The submission period will close on Dec. 7.

Submissions must include the recipient's name, age, telephone number, address and clothing sizes.

Angel Tree gifts will be delivered on Dec. 21.

On the same day, MMC will also launch its second annual Secret Santa giveaway.

With Secret Santa, MMC members approach people at any time and location in El Dorado, identify themselves and offer a gift.

Last year, MMC paid for groceries and gasoline, offered cash gifts, tipped servers at local restaurants and made donations to local churches around town.

MMC has adopted the Fordville neighborhood for Christmas on the Court 2023.

The event will begin at noon on Dec. 23 in Family Life Center of New Olive Branch Baptist Church, 1548 N. Roselawn.

The event will be open only to Fordville residents.

MMC will distribute holiday gifts, turkeys, hams, rotisserie chickens, canned goods and fresh vegetables (turnip and collard greens, cabbage, onions, bell peppers and potatoes) to attendees.

The canned goods will be distributed as part of MMC youths' monthly mission project.

If any of items are left over, MMC will head to other neighborhoods in the city to distribute the excess items.

Bailey thanked volunteers and those who have made donations to MMC, saying that the proceeds help to fund MMC community-service projects.

She said donations have rolled into a P.O. box that was recently set up for MMC, noting that she picked up a cash donation from Branson, Missouri, on Wednesday.

For more information, to request a food delivery or to submit a name for the Angel Tree, call Bailey at 870-310-0391.

Donations may be sent to P.O. Box 10594, El Dorado, Arkansas, 71730.

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