By Jan White
CROCKETT – Despite the daunting rain and chilly temperatures, the annual turkey giveaway sponsored by former resident and football linebacker Eugene Lockhart went forward as planned.
On Monday, Nov. 14, organizers and volunteers gathered under the entrance of the Porth Ag Arena in Crockett to hand out approximately 350 Honeysuckle frozen turkeys to local churches. Before distributing the turkeys, there was a brief ceremony that included a hymn, prayer, and thanks to those who helped make the event possible. Special recognition was given to donors Dr. Jerome and Dorothy Washington, Calvin and Cynthia Neel, Pastor Keeney Dickenson, and Pam Raines from First Baptist Church in Crockett.
James Gentry, Executive Director of the Crockett Economic Industrial Development Corporation and husband to event organizer Jurlinda Gentry addressed the group. “Even though Jurlinda can’t be here today, I want to thank you on her behalf for your participation and for getting these turkeys out to the churches.”
Mayor Dr. Ianthia Fisher also spoke to the group. “Having been here since almost day one, there was a time when there was a great need for this.” Fisher laughed as she recalled, “The senior citizens would call us as early as September asking ‘when are they gonna have those turkeys?’ because they didn’t want to miss it. It was such a community thing. We used to go door-to-door. If you couldn’t make it, someone would deliver the turkey to your house. Since that time, it’s become a much larger effort, and we are grateful for that.” She went on to say that the giveaway has an impact that doesn’t go unnoticed. “The Bible tells you when you bless somebody else, you get a blessing from it. But even if you don’t see it, you don’t know how many lives you change. And we are so appreciative of the volunteers and those who have given their time and efforts to make this event happen.”
Although Lockhart could not be at the event, his sister, Jurlinda Gentry, spoke to the crowd via cell phone. “We are so glad you were all able to attend.” Gentry and Lockhart were both attending to their mother, who is in the ICU in Houston. “Please keep my mom in prayer. It’s humbling that we still get to do this in spite of what we are going through. We have real good friends and a city like Crockett to stand behind us to help make this happen.” She continued, “I know my brother, Eugene Lockhart, will be proud, and my family will be proud that no matter what we go through, we never forget where we came from and never forget to give. We love y’all and are glad we can pass the blessing on to the community.”
Cynthia Neel spoke on behalf of her family and business. “We are excited that it’s Thanksgiving, leading into Christmas time, which is absolutely the most wonderful time of the year with the greatest present of all.” She went on to thank those who support their enterprise, allowing them to give back to the community.
Following the ceremony, cars lined up in the parking lot of the arena and took turns stopping at the portico to allow the cold and rain-soaked-but-happy volunteers to load up the vehicles with turkeys.