City of Memphis says annual Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless is back on after outpouring of support

Updated: Nov. 5, 2019 at 5:03 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - An event that draws thousands to Downtown Memphis to break bread and give thanks is back on after organizers canceled it.

For decades, the Memphis Thanksgiving Day Dinner for the Homeless and Hungry has served meals and provided services to those who need it most, but event organizers canceled this year’s event because they say renovations to the Cook Convention Center caused a number of challenges.

“This is something that’s been a part of the community for 35 years now. We don’t want it to go away,” said Memphis city spokeswoman Ursula Madden.

Madden says this is not a city event. The city’s role has been to help the Memphis Thanksgiving Committee find a venue in previous years.

Madden says about two months ago the city began looking at alternative locations after organizers voiced their concerns about the Cook Convention Center, which is undergoing major renovations.

“The kitchen wasn’t available like it usually is to host this,” said Madden. “We didn’t know what the room was going to look like where they usually set up. We went and looked at Beale Street Landing. We went and looked Mud Island. We finally settled on City Hall.”

According to Madden, that's when the Memphis Thanksgiving Committee revealed finances were also an issue. The committee ultimately canceled the event.

"Without them having the means to put it together financially there was not point in us going forward at that time," said Madden.

City of Memphis says the Annual Thanksgiving Dinner is back on

Since announcing the Thanksgiving Dinner would be canceled, local community partners have stepped up. Final details are expected to be released later this week. Madden says they’re also looking at how the event will run going forward.

Jake Schorr, owner of Westy’s, says they’re prepared to feed more people come Thanksgiving Day if needed. Schorr and his team of volunteers have been hosting a Thanksgiving Day event for years and feed hundreds of people.

"We don't run out. We have a system, after all these years, of extra stuff ready to go if the people keep coming," said Schorr.

WMC Action News 5 tried reaching the Memphis Thanksgiving Committee but were not able to. A statement was issued reading in part, “We look forward to coming back home in 2020 to a bigger and better Cook Convention Center.”

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