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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Thanksgiving dinner part of bigger community service

Friday, November 23, 2012

From left to right: Linda Klein, Gina Poindexter and Sherron Beverly check the food set up at the H.C. Community Thanksgiving Dinner Thursday, Nov. 22.
(Sarah Reed/Democrat-News)
They are hands, helping hands -- and least that's what has materialized in just a matter a month.

Volunteers of the H.C. Community Center held their first community Thanksgiving dinner Nov. 22. Doors opened to the public at 11 a.m., but volunteers had already delivered 30 meals within 45 minutes.

"We're going to be about people," said Sheila Stephenson, H.C. Community Center director. "I was always told, if you see a need, take the initiative."

On Thanksgiving Day, volunteers were focused on providing meals for those who wouldn't otherwise have one, but also with bringing the community together -- a sort of mantra for what the community center is itself.

While preparations for Thanksgiving dinner were happening downstairs in a full basement, H.C. Community Center Director Sheila Stephenson says the main floor needs to be revitalized. Currently it looks like, well, a church. But organizers hope to clear the space in order to give children a large space for activities.
(Sarah Reed/Democrat-News)
"The building was purchased for community use, and giving back to the community," Stephenson said.

She's referring to what was previously the Handy Chapel on Jackson Street in Marshall. Since opening earlier this fall, youth programs have taken shape within those walls on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Children have an assortment of activities from playing games to watching movies. They're fed, provided transportation to and from the center, and the entire program is free to any child in the community.

"The meals are free, the pick up is free," Stephenson said.

Youth Power programs are headed by Reggie Palmer Jr., who works with a team of volunteers that supervise the activities. Sometimes, through donations, the kids participating have been able to attend events outside of the city.

"We have received donations in the past from community people, and children have been allowed to go to the Sesame Street things in Kansas City," Stephenson continued. "I attended one of those ... and had a vanload, and they were all asleep when we got back."

Children have been stemming from across the Marshall area, and apparently flooding the center since the skating rink closed its doors. Organizers want to revamp the building too, hoping to soon paint the interior and remove the pews that still fill the sanctuary. They'd also like to update the full basement.

"We're in our grassroots stage still, but we're moving forward," Stephenson explained. "It will be a safe, secure place that's alcohol and drug free. Our goal is nothing more but to empower youth, empower families and bring the community together."

And that's just what seemed to happen on Thanksgiving Day. Led by Shirley Poindexter's organization and menu, and the skills of Christina Periman, Ruby Hayes, Lillian Harris and multiple other cooks, volunteers came from everywhere.

"People from the community have really come together," Stephenson said. "It's really a good feeling when you go to someone's house and drop off a dinner. They give you a hug, it just makes your heart glad."

The community center is available as a meeting space and for other community uses, for a small donation. Those interested in utilizing it, and parents who'd like more information about children's programs should call 660-886-8860.

Contact Sarah Reed at

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