One Table’s turkey grillers help make sure there’s plenty to eat at Aiken’s free Thanksgiving dinner
Getting ready for One Table, Aiken’s free community Thanksgiving dinner, is a labor-intensive process.
And one of the biggest tasks is cooking the turkeys that will be served to the large crowd that gathers in The Alley to celebrate the holiday.
In 2017, around 1,800 hungry diners showed up to eat and enjoy the live entertainment.
For this year’s event, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, the volunteer turkey cookers included three employees of the Aiken Department of Public Safety: Lt. Billy Cameron, Det. Jon Eagerton and Master Public Safety Officer Alan Willing.
Joining them were Clement Scurry, president of the Free Riders Motorcycle Club, and Anthony Corley, pastor for North Aiken Outreach Ministry.
The men set up their big grills Wednesday morning in the parking lot behind the Joe Harrison’s State Farm insurance office on Newberry Street.
They had 64 turkeys to prepare to add to the 30 pre-cooked turkeys that had been donated for One Table.
The proper technique to produce beautifully browned birds is to “cook them low and slow, with a lot of love,” said Willing, who has been a One Table turkey preparer for 11 years.
He had two grills on a trailer that together could hold 20 birds.
Eagerton was cooking One Table’s turkeys for the first time.
“The other officers asked for a little help, and I was more than happy to bring my grill down here and spend the day,” he said.
Scurry brought Free Riders Sergeant-at-Arms Leon Hart with him to assist. They have been a One Table turkey-cooking team for three years.
The opportunity to “give back to the community” is what motivates them to pitch in, Scurry said.
The parking lot where Scurry, Hart and their fellow bird grillers worked is next to Newberry Hall, which is owned by Patrick and Natalie Carlisle.
The turkeys cooked Wednesday were stored in Newberry Hall’s cooler before being grilled.
Tuesday night, with help from other volunteers, the birds were cleaned and sprinkled with the event venue’s “house-made” seasoning that contains onion salt, celery salt, paprika, black pepper and other ingredients, Patrick Carlisle said.
Lynne Sharpe, who is One Table’s volunteer coordinator, expressed her gratitude for the turkey grillers’ help and Newberry Hall’s involvement.
“We couldn’t do One Table without them,” she said. “They are fabulous.”
For more information about One Table, visit onetable.info.