BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s one of Baltimore’s most notable Thanksgiving traditions, the Bea Gaddy Thanksgiving dinner feeds tens of thousands of hungry residents.
Volunteers start prep here as early as 4am, getting thousands of meals ready to eat or be delivered. For 37 years, Thanksgiving in Baltimore has been headlined by Bea Gaddy.
“It’s amazing to see that the community has come together, and really we’re servicing a need,” said volunteer Kimberly Ballou. “And on this day specifically, people remember to think about those who are less fortunate.”
The annual mission: to help Baltimore’s needy by providing a hot meal and warm clothing on Thanksgiving.
Bea Gaddy’s dinner started in 1981 with just 49 guests and $250 from a winning lottery ticket. Now, 17 years after her death, volunteers live out her legacy each Thanksgiving morning.
“It just makes us feel so proud,” said Cynthia Brooks, Bea Gaddy’s granddaughter. “It just makes me feel so good that people still want to continue her work.”
Preparation begins early as thousands of meals are packed for delivery.
“I’ve been doing it for like I say, 28 years now,” said volunteer Lenny Maultsby. “I’m loving it.”
Masons from across the state drive thousands of meals to neighboring counties.
“I’m not sure how many families we’re going to help today,” said Emanuel Stanley of F&AM of Maryland. “last year was around 1500 families that we delivered food to.”
Thousands of sit-in guests also have their choice of delicious homemade food.
“Its taken a lot of work to distribute 50,000 meals,” said volunteer Phil Goodwin. “We’ve filled up over six Uhauls worth of food and canned goods. We’ve had three pallets of turkeys that were cooked.”
While Thanksgiving dinner may be its biggest celebration, Bea Gaddy Family Centers helps Baltimoreans in need year-round.