Second community dinner date set; other holiday projects in works

Meet Me at the Court volunteers served 400 meals during the first Sharion Bailey Whitlock Community Soul Food Dinner: Good Food for the Body and Soul of 2023, and a second community dinner is now planned for Dec. 9. (News-Times file)
Meet Me at the Court volunteers served 400 meals during the first Sharion Bailey Whitlock Community Soul Food Dinner: Good Food for the Body and Soul of 2023, and a second community dinner is now planned for Dec. 9. (News-Times file)

The date has been set.

The Sharion Bailey Whitlock Community Soul Food Dinner: Good Food for the Body and Soul, Part 2, will be held at noon on Dec. 9 in the rear parking lot of the TAC House, 1101 N. west Ave.

The community dinner is a follow-up to the annual SBWCSFD, which celebrated its 10th anniversary on Nov. 5.

Both events are presented Meet Me at the Court and the The Bailey Family, with assistance from the Sugar Town Riders Motorcycle Club.

As with the original event, Part 2 will be free and open to the public and meals will be served in a drive-through format.

And Veronica Bailey, president and CEO of MMC -- a nonprofit, community-service organization --, emphasized that participants must remain in their vehicles to help the food-service line run smoothly.

"We tell people that, but some people still get out of their cars. Some of them told me last time, 'Well, Ms. Bailey, it didn't say that on the (promotional) flyer.' This time, it's going to be on the flyer," Bailey said with a laugh.

On Nov. 4, MMC served 400 dinner plates to lines of vehicles that formed along North West Avenue, prompting the El Dorado Police Department to post an officer on the scene to direct traffic, as Police Chief Kenny Hickman worked onsite as a volunteer to serve meals.

Bailey said the idea for a second community dinner stemmed from two dreams she had on back-to-back nights, starting two days after the SBWCSFD.

In each dream, MMC was hosting community dinners, one on the very spot where the SBWCSFD was held, she described.

Bailey said she interpreted the dreams as a sign to host another community dinner this year.

Coincidentally, MMC was launched in 2013 because of a dream Bailey had shortly after her sister, Whitlock, 51, passed away following an illness.

"She came to me in a dream and told me to take care of the children because that was something that she loved to do -- help young people," Bailey said.

She said Whitlock had a penchant for community service and was well known for opening up her home to friends, family and neighbors for large, homecooked meals.

Thanksgiving was Whitlock's favorite holiday, Bailey has said, noting that MMC and the community events it hosts each year are designed to carry on Whitlock's legacy of giving.

For their monthly mission project, MMC youth members delivered 218 canned goods to the Salvation Army of El Dorado's food pantry earlier this week.

Bailey said generous donors left some of the canned goods, including bulk sizes, on her front porch.

Whitlock's grandchildren, Elijah and Alexiana Glenn, participated in the delivery, she noted.

"We had a wonderful time and it was so wonderful seeing Sharion's grandbabies doing what I know she would love for them to do," said Bailey.

Part 2

Word about a second SBWCSFD began to spread before Bailey finalized plans for the event.

She said MMC volunteers and caterers immediately jumped aboard when she shared the idea with them and after confirming the date, she had planned to officially announce Part 2 on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

However, with so many inquiries reportedly rolling in, the announcement came early, she said.

Like the SBWCSFD, Part 2 will include soul food staples.

The dinner will also incorporate fare that is traditionally served on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

"We'll have the turkey and dressing, macaroni and cheese and all of the other foods that we have for the Thanksgiving dinner but we'll also have the black-eyed peas and cabbage and the other foods that people eat on New Year's (Day) for good luck," Bailey said.

"Another thing that has been heavily requested is turkey necks, so we will have turkey necks there and we will have potato salad, another big request, this time," she continued.

Bailey issued a few reminders about the event, noting that plates will be pre-made and distributed, so many participants will not receive the same foods on each plate.

There are no limits to the number of plates that are handed out to each vehicle and participants are not required to provide personal information to receive a meal.

"We're just there to fill a need and we share with everyone that comes through the drive-through," she said previously. "All we need to know are the number of plates you need and we'll go from there. We'll hand the food out until all the food is gone."

She encouraged participants to arrive early, noting that some line up as early as 10 a.m.

MMC youth members and the Sugar Town Riders will be among the volunteer servers.

Deliveries will also be available for those who request the service, Bailey said.

"All they have to is call me by Dec. 2 for deliveries and give me their name, address and (phone) number so we'll know how many plates we'll need and where we'll need to go," she explained.

Angel Tree and other holiday events

The submission period is still open for MMC's Sharion Bailey Whitlock Angel Tree project.

Submissions must include the recipient's name, age, telephone number, address and clothing sizes.

Submissions are due on Dec. 7. Angel Tree gifts will be delivered on Dec. 21.

On the same day, MMC will launch its second annual Secret Santa giveaway.

With Secret Santa, MMC members approach people at any time and location in El Dorado, identify themselves and offer a gift.

Last year, MMC paid for groceries and gasoline, offered cash gifts, tipped servers at local restaurants and made donations to local churches around town.

MMC has adopted the Fordville neighborhood for Christmas on the Court 2023.

The event will begin at noon on Dec. 23 in the Family Life Center of New Olive Branch Baptist Church, 1548 N. Roselawn.

The event will be open only to Fordville residents.

MMC will distribute holiday gifts, turkeys, hams, rotisserie chickens, canned goods and fresh vegetables (turnip and collard greens, cabbage, onions, bell peppers and potatoes) to attendees.

The canned goods will be distributed as part of MMC youths' monthly mission project.

MMC will head to other neighborhoods in the city to distribute any excess items.

For more information, to request a meal delivery or to submit a name for the Angel Tree, call Bailey at 870-310-0391.

Donations for MMC may be sent to P.O. Box 10594, El Dorado, Arkansas, 71730.

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