Kitchen of Love non-profit, state Rep. Cherelle Parker team up to serve ‘Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner’

Marlene Trice began preparing Thanksgiving dinner this past Sunday after church. When she finished cooking Monday night at 6, there was a feast great enough for 250 people.

She served the two 10-pound turkey hams, string beans, collard greens, baked macaroni, rice stuffing, cornbread stuffing, succotash and variety of cakes and pies at the Upper Room Missionary Baptist Church, 7236 Ogontz Ave., Tuesday afternoon for the “Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner” event, hosted by her non-profit, Kitchen of Love, and state Rep. Cherelle Parker (D-Phila).

Six missionaries from the church also cooked eight 20-pound turkeys. The rest of the meal was Trice’s labor alone, all for the benefit of seniors and low-income families who struggle to have a warm Thanksgiving meal every year.

The food was donated by Philabundance, Pathmark, Shoprite, SHARE Food Program and businesses along Wadsworth and Ogontz avenues.

Trice, founder of Kitchen of Love, started the “Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner” six years ago when she brought the idea to Parker and they partnered with the church to host the event.

“I knew a lot of people didn’t have a place to go and weren’t going to have Thanksgiving,” Trice said.

The scene on Tuesday

A soft murmur of chatter rose as the elders filed into the church’s Bishop Hall in the misty rain Tuesday afternoon. The crowd of 200 was predominantly women, and mostly seniors. About 125 of them were from the West Oak Lane Senior Center down the street.

They sat at round tables, decorated with vases of faux autumn leaves and white roses. Some took seats by friends, others by strangers, but all were joined by the steamy hot plates put before them.

“This is about you today. This is an opportunity for us to say thank you to you,” Parker said. “You are the seasoned ones that have helped build our community. You’re the homeowners and you are the people who help make Northwest Philadelphia the stable community that it is.”

This was the event’s first year packing both floors of Bishop Hall.

Kitchen of Love operates out of Parker’s office basement at 1536 Wadsworth Ave. Trice serves canned goods and meat to 150 people every Thursday. The first Thursday of each month, she also serves 120 seniors. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday of last week she handed out 222 turkeys to low-income families and seniors. On Thanksgiving day, Trice’s nieces will hand out 50 dinners at Love Park in Center City.

“Some of the stories are pretty heartwrenching,” Parker said. “You’d be surprised how many of them who are here today don’t have children that live with them.”

Others remarked some elders may not have any family with whom to spend the holiday. The West Oak Lane Senior Center keeps a close eye on its members during the holiday season, “conscious that it may bring a certain level of anxiety, loneliness and depression,” said Cathy Brown, the center’s assistant director.

“They don’t have anyone at home with them, and if they can come out and talk to someone, it uplifts their day,” said Eva Jones, 74. “Some people are very lonely. They don’t have anyone.”

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