Volunteers and diners enjoy a sit-down meal together at the 2019 Frazier Family Community Thanksgiving Dinner. COURTESY KENNETH FRAZIER

Anyone who wishes to share a Thanksgiving meal with friends, family and the community at large will have several choices this year.

Bluffton Eats Community Soup Kitchen at Campbell A.M.E Church, 25 Boundary St., will be serving a pick-up and take-away feast from 1 to 2 p.m. Nov. 17. It’s a little in advance of the actual holiday, but the meal will be traditional Thanksgiving fare.

“We are providing turkey, dressing with gravy, collard greens, candied yams, rice, another green veg, croissant rolls and cookies,” said Martin-Witter, executive director of the soup kitchen. “We will also be doing a Christmas meal, with field peas for the New Year. All of our cooks are Blufftonians, so they are native Gullah girls, and you know the food will be good.”

Martin-Witter said that by December the soup kitchen volunteers will have cooked, prepared, boxed and distributed at least 18,000 meals, averaging 1,200 to 1,500 a month.

Bluffton Community Soup Kitchen was established in 2011 to prepare home cooked hot meals for the elderly, sick, shut-in, homeless and impoverished members of the Bluffton community. In the first year, the kitchen provided 500 meals.

Since 2017, when the group became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, they write grants and apply for funding to help support the mission of the soup kitchen. There is a continuing need for supplies, food and donations to one day purchase a building to house the soup kitchen. Ongoing challenges include paying for food and supplies, and purchasing a building. The food pantry serves the public at 1 p.m. on Mondays, and the soup kitchen offers hot meals to go at 1 p.m. Wednesdays, and meal deliveries at 1 p.m. Thursdays.

On the last Thursday of each month, the soup kitchen holds a food pantry and outdoor cookout, according to the website at blufftoneats.org.

For more information, call 248-390-1798 or email blufftoneats123@gmail.com.

On Thanksgiving Day there are two separate feasts, one in Bluffton and the other on Hilton Head Island.

The Frazier Family third annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Oscar Frazier Park, 77 Shults Road in Bluffton.

This family-plus gathering began with a letter sent in 2018 from Kenneth Frazier to his extended family, inviting them all to gather at the Rotary Club building at the park.

“It was never really intended to be just the Frazier clan. There was a need to have something in Bluffton,” said Frazier. “It really stems from the spirit of my grandparents on both sides: Daisy Pinckney and Oscar Benjamin Frazier Sr., who used to be part of a co-op that owned and operated the Bluffton oyster factory; and on my mother’s side, Jackie and Albert Mitchell. My grandmother was a midwife and my grandfather would go around and rehab homes.

“Then there is my father, Kenneth Sr., and Uncle Oscar James Frazier, for whom the park is named. I felt it was important that my generation of Fraziers continued that tradition of stewardship,” Frazier said.

When Frazier wrote the letter, he said it was not just his generation taking that torch and running forward, but it was also about teaching the young folks about that community stewardship, sacrifice and service.

Frazier and his family have been signing up turkey-cookers, receiving commitments for various dishes for the feast, and gathering contributions for not only carry-out containers and other serving necessities, but they are collecting Walmart gift-cards for foster families this Christmas. All gift card donations will go to Beaufort County Foster Families.

“Any money collected as donations or monetary donations to the dinner, all of those are donated to the Department of Social Services Beaufort County in the form of gift cards for those kids in foster care,” said Frazier. “Our goal is to provide at least $50 per kid in the program, and I think there are 48 kids this year.”

Last year donations provided $2,300 and in 2019, donations totaled $1,120 and were split $250 to Jasper County Department of Social Services and $870 to Beaufort County Foster Families.

“We are truly a blessed family, and we weren’t intended to take anything with us. We were put here for the sake of humanity, which means looking out for those in need and our fellow man,” Frazier said. “It’s something we take pride in, and kind of feel a sense of duty of care for this is the community that we live in.”

Across the bridge, on Hilton Head Island, the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner, sidelined last year due to COVID-19, is back at Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks, 1 Hudson Road, off Squire Pope Road, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 25.

The annual event started in 1999 as a way for those who lived alone on the holiday to be able to share a Thanksgiving meal with others. At that first meal, more than 400 people showed up. Since then, it has grown into a community gathering of hundreds, who enjoy turkey, dressing and all the trimmings, served family style by an army of 350 volunteers.

All are welcome as individuals or groups. It’s always a place to meet new and old friends. “It’s a festive atmosphere,” said Allan LaCoe in a 2019 article in this newspaper. LaCoe along with his wife, Gloria LaCoe, have served on the planning committee since the beginning.

There has been a misconception that the event is only for those of limited financial means, but it’s also for those who live alone, families who prefer not to cook, and visitors – and anyone in between, according to Gloria LaCoe.

The celebration, filled with food, fellowship and entertainment, is free to all. Financial donations are gratefully accepted and benefit Deep Well, Bluffton Self Help and Second Helpings.

The meal is sponsored by St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church and Hudson’s.

Call 843-505-1370 for more information, to volunteer, or even if you need a ride that day, or visit CommunityThanksgiving.com. Or, just show up hungry.

Donations can be accepted on the website as well.

Organizers say they are continuing to monitor the status of governmental mandates with regards to safety of guests and volunteers. Check the Facebook page for updates.

Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.