By Alex Robinson
Adrienne Hayes did her best to make sure no one in Jamaica went hungry this Thanksgiving.
The president of the Circle of Sisters and Brothers Moves Inc., a nonprofit that works with disadvantaged people, held her sixth annual Thanksgiving dinner for the less fortunate this year at New Jerusalem Baptist Church at 12205 Smith St.
“I don’t just do the dinner like a soup kitchen. I wanted to make sure they get to sit down banquet-style with white table cloths,” she said. “Hopefully, we can bring pleasurable memories to them.”
In years past, Hayes has cooked all the food herself, but she was able to cater the dinner this year, thanks to a donation from Delta Airlines.
Hayes’ dinner went on last year despite being hampered by Superstorm Sandy. She spent the holiday without heat, hot water and electricity because of the storm, but still managed to cook food for more than 200 people in friends’ kitchens.
Ryan Marzulla, a project director at JFK airport with Delta Airlines, heard how hard Hayes had worked to make sure the dinner went on last year and decided she should have help this year.
“He said he wanted to take some of the pressure off of me,” Hayes said.
Marzulla made sure Hayes received a generous donation from Delta Airlines this year to fund the dinner.
Her number of volunteers and donations dwindled last year as people were busy helping with Sandy relief, but this year was different.
“This year was truly a blessing,” said Hayes, whose legion of volunteers buzzed around the dinner serving food and offering people coffee.
Hayes said her experience with Sandy last year reminded her that there is a fine line between the haves and have nots.
“Certain things can happen within the blink of an eye,” she said. “Last year, I didn’t think I was going to be in the cold, but at least I had a home.”
Hayes said she puts on her annual dinners in honor of her mother, who fed anyone in the community who would come through her door.
Hayes grew up in Bushwick, Brooklyn, the youngest of 21 children. She said her mother made sure no one ever went hungry in her large family.
“We never had the best of the best, but we never went hungry,” she said.
The family did not always have meat to eat, but there would always be plenty of vegetables since Hayes’ mother kept a garden in their backyard.
Hayes said her mother, a native of South Carolina, was known for her collard greens and buttermilk biscuits in the community.
More than 200 people were expected to filter through the Thanksgiving dinner Thursday. The menu included turkey, stuffing, collard greens, ham, macaroni and cheese, and a selection of deserts. Most of the food came from Queens-based Hug’s Catering and the Boston Market on West Merrick Road in Valley Stream.
Anita Taylor, a friend of Hayes who has been coming to her dinners for four years with her mother, Hazel Headley, said people often take food from the dinner to their neighbors who can’t physically get out of their houses.
“It’s nice to see the neighborhood does something to help people in need,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you do or don’t have, but you get to share a meal.”
The main thing Hayes said she hopes people take away from her dinners, other than a full belly, is the thought that there is not much difference between those in need and the rest of the community.
“We shouldn’t look at people differently just because they are going through a difficult time in their life,” she said. “You never know what someone has been through.”
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.