Giving Heart serves up free Thanksgiving: ‘You feel like you’re in heaven’

RICHMOND, Va. -- While Thanksgiving is about food, family and friends for many people, there are a lot of folks living in our community who do not have regular access to any of those things.

As a result, hundreds of people came together to provide a feast for Richmond’s less fortunate each Thanksgiving at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

Some people started lining up at 5 a.m. for the 12th annual Community Thanksgiving Feast organized by the Giving Heart organization.

The event is made possible thanks to generous donors and volunteers like Dhalia Avent.

For nearly a decade, Avent has been a volunteer at the Giving Heart's feast.

"Feels good to give back and meet so many different people and have a good time," Avent said.

Giving Heart Feast

Giving Heart Feast

People like Mary Williams, who has attended the meal for the past five years, said it is very Thanksgiving for the past 5 years.

"It's a good feeling because it's good for somebody to serve you sometimes instead of you serving them,” Williams said. “You feel like you're in heaven -- in a restaurant.”

More than 800 volunteers helped collect donations, decorate tables, prepare the food and then serve the nearly 2500 people who come out for a free meal.

Anyone is welcome to sit down and enjoy the food and fellowship. All they have to do is show up.

"It's really for people who just want a place to go,” Giving Heart Executive Director Vicki Nielson said. “Maybe they want to have a conversation. Maybe they want to being their kids and let them experience this."

"This is really helpful because the people I've met here since I've been here in Richmond somehow became my family," Vernell Gaines said.

That's why Avent says she'll continue to do her part--to be kind and spread the love.

"There are a lot of good people out here with good hearts that want to help and want to give back," Avent said.