For the past 20 years, Barry Walker has gotten together with a group of friends on Thanksgiving morning to feed the homeless in their neighborhood. They all bring a dish of traditional holiday food, some gently used clothes and shoes and toiletries and a blanket or two.
In the beginning, these friends gathered around a table where they caught up on each other’s lives, then packed their homemade dishes into take-out containers and headed to feed where people living in their cars, alleyways or under bridges.
The first year they fed 28 people. In 2015, they fed 17,000 people — and they no longer fit around a kitchen table. Their organization, Gobble Gobble Give, has now grown into a 501c(3) nonprofit organization serving Thanksgiving meals in Echo Park in Los Angeles to Santa Monica, Downtown LA, San Francisco, Santa Ana, two locations in San Diego, Las Vegas, Austin, Nashville, New York City, Boca Raton, Detroit and, this year, Salt Lake City.
Barry Walker’s cousin, Todd Ayers and his wife Xiomara, recently moved from Antelope Valley, Calif., to Pleasant Grove, Utah, and decided at the last moment to spearhead Gobble Gobble Give in downtown Salt Lake. Their initial goal was to feed 500 people. Being new to the area, however, spreading the word went slowly.
Less than a week ago, last Friday, they had only two turkeys donated and a few cases of water — nowhere near enough to serve 500 people. They began to panic. Then, their neighbor Christie Gardiner stood up in her Sunday church meetings and shared the vision of Gobble Gobble Give.
“That’s when the magic happened,” said Xiomara. She immediately started receiving calls, text messages and Facebook messages from people she had never met in Pleasant Grove, American Fork, Orem, Lehi and Lindon asking how could they help.
“We are a non-LDS family,” she told me “and moving here we didn’t know if we would be received by others because of our non religion. This event proved that regardless of faith and beliefs we could all come together to take care of our own. We are bonded together to feed those that need it most.”
The Ayers have received enough donations to feed about 700 people, but would love to do more. If you are reading this before Thursday morning, feel free to go to the online sign-up form or the Facebook page and add your name and the items you can provide. They are still looking for hats, gloves and blankets, in addition to food items.
They are also looking for volunteers to help serve meals Thursday morning at Caputo’s Market, 314 West 300 South, Salt Lake City, from 9-11:45 am.
President John F. Kennedy reminded us: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” The Ayers are taking action. So can we.
Holly Richardson is a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune.