COVID safe preparations underway for Richmond’s largest Thanksgiving feast

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The Giving Heart serving up annual Thanksgiving feast in Richmond, despite pandemic

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond’s largest Thanksgiving meal has pandemic changes in store, but a local non-profit organization, The Giving Heart, isn’t giving up on its 15th annual feast.

As COVID-19 keeps its hold on Virginia, organizers tell 8News they weren’t sure if the annual feast would happen.

“After a lot of discussion about how we could do this, and do it the right way, protect everybody you know, we just said, we gotta do it,” said Vicki Neilson, The Giving Heart founder.

Neilson said the need has never been greater. She estimated it’s quadrupled when compared to past years. This Thanksgiving, they’re pulling it off while making major changes to keep people safe, meaning you won’t see hundreds of people sitting down, enjoying a free meal together like in years past.

Co-organizer Sandra Antoine says, however, that the Thanksgiving spirit isn’t gone. She says volunteers are ready to make this year special.

“They’ll be greeting them at the doors to bring some cheer and enjoyment and comradery to this wonderful time of giving thanks for everyone,” she said.

Neilson has the giving heart behind the event, telling 8News, “We’re getting a lot of turkeys and hams all ready.”

Ahead of Thursday, locals can order in advance and pick meals up curbside. Another option is to show up on Thanksgiving Day, wait in line, grab a meal, and eat it elsewhere.

As an added safety precaution, plastic sheathing between rows was installed. Additionally, only 100 people will be allowed inside at a time. Masks will be required, temperatures checked, and social distancing of more than six feet apart will be implemented.

On Monday, food preparations began.

“I wanna thank all of our volunteers, front of the house, back of the house,” the executive chef said. “We’re doing approximately 300 plus turkeys along with a couple hundred hams, countless amounts of stuffing, potatoes, vegetables, gravy, cranberry sauce.”

On a normal year, Neilson says they feed roughly 2,200 people total. As of Monday, she said they already have more than 2,300 pre-orders. That number doesn’t include all the walk-ins expected on Thursday.

“I hope we have enough food,” she said.

The founder is still looking for volunteers to fill some specific duties before Thursday. Visit The Giving Heart’s website to learn more by clicking here.


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