My Neighbor’s Table helps bring together the community for Christmas
Bringing together members of the community and law enforcement representatives during the Christmas season was the goal of an event called My Neighbor’s Table, which was held Saturday in the fire vehicle bays at the Aiken Department of Public Safety.
“I just got tired of seeing so much crime and stuff here, so I wanted to do something to unite our police officers and our city,” said George Oakman Jr., an Aiken native who is the founder and CEO of the Georgia-based nonprofit People of the World Holding Hands. “I figured this was a way that we could all sit down with each other and eat while enjoying the holiday peace.”
People of the World was the lead organizer of My Neighbor’s Table, but 11 other organizations provided assistance, Oakman said.
Everybody was welcome, but many of the invitees were people in need.
There were toys for the youngsters, and raffles for gift cards for the adults.
“We also have gift boxes that have underwear and candy in them,” Oakman said. “You name it, we brought it.”
A big meal with a menu that included turkey and dressing, ham, chicken, corn, lima beans and potato salad was served, and the Glam Stars Dance Team performed.
Surrounded by children, Aiken Department of Public Safety Chief Charles Barranco read two books: “The Gingerbread Boy” and “Good Enough to Eat: A Kid’s Guide to Food and Nutrition.”
Then Aiken City Councilwoman and Mayor Pro Tempore Gail Diggs read “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which is more commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas” or “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
“This is awesome,” Barranco said. “We were honored to be asked to be the host as far as the facility goes. Many times in government, we try to do good things, but it means so much more when the community comes together to do it. We have people from all over the Southeast here to share and help folks during the holiday season, and that’s pretty special.”
Diggs also was grateful for the efforts of Oakman and his team.
“Thanks to all the angels here today who made this possible, starting with George from People of the World Holding Hands,” Diggs said. “He grew up in my district in Crosland Park, and he and his family have never forgotten where they came from. A lot of the kids here today wouldn’t have a good Christmas because their parents aren’t in a position to go out and buy a lot of toys, but now their Christmas will be brighter.”
In addition, Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon stopped by to express his gratitude to Oakman.
Fallohn Middlebrooks brought her sons, Demetrice, 6, and Amer, 2, to My Neighbor’s Table.
“We were invited, and I’m happy we could make it,” Fallohn said. “We’re here so the kids can have fun for Christmas. Because I’m pregnant, I can’t work, so I’m not getting the money that I used to. They still will have a pretty decent amount of stuff for Christmas, but this is something a little extra for them.”
Oakman estimated that My Neighbor’s Table had more than 200 attendees.