WENDELL — Organizers of the Wendell Lions Club’s annual New Year’s Day lunch say the fellowship is as heartwarming as the food.
That’s what has made the tradition special since it was first held in 2003 as part of Wendell’s Centennial celebration, according to Lorraine Dixon, three-year Lions Club secretary treasurer and past club president. She said the 12th installment of the annual luncheon on Wednesday was no exception.
“When we did this the first time for the Centennial in Wendell, we did not expect for it to be this big ever,” Dixon said. “The community support and request of the community is why we continued it, and is why it’s such a success. Everyone had such a great New Year’s.”
The menu consisting of black-eyed peas, collards with ham hocks, sweet potatoes, hush puppies and hot dogs for the children was offered at no cost, but donations were gladly accepted. The club dished out 25 pounds of the seasonal peas, 60 units of collards and used “a big, big bag of cornmeal” for the hush puppies.
The donations collected usually cover the cost of the meal, and then some – allowing the club to pay for glasses, eye exams and hearing aids for those in need.
“There’s a lot of different types of families that come,” Dixon said. “Some come just because they are supporters of the Lions Club. Some come because we may have met some of their needs before, and I think many of them come just because of this tradition in our area.”
Somewhere between 250-300 people are estimated to have attended last week’s luncheon, believed to be one of the largest ever held.
“It was the first time in 11 years anyone had to wait any time for food,” Dixon said. “We had such a big crowd come in all at once, the first batch of potatoes just ran out.”
About 20 people composed of Lions Club members, family and friends – from age 8 on into their 80s – put in the time to prepare and serve the meal. One of those, Elnathan Brown, even grew the collards. And a variety of desserts were donated by people in the community.
But the work is worth the end result, Dixon said.
“Many people don’t want to take the time to prepare that food, and they can come and get a good lunch,” she said. “But spending time with people they haven’t seen in a while is a big thing.
“It’s unique each year. When you look around and see people meeting and greeting people they haven’t seen in a while, it’s really, really heartwarming to see people reconnecting.”
Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews