COLUMBIA - The cold rain that poured down outside Russell Chapel CME Church in Columbia on Monday didn’t stop volunteers from loading up cars with food to make their Thanksgiving dinner.

“It's community helping community and we are just dedicated to keeping it going,” Erika Buford said. Buford serves as the director of outreach for Almeta Crayton’s Community Programs. 

Every year the non-profit puts on its “Everybody Eats” event providing a Thanksgiving meal to families in need. The annual effort all started with late city councilwoman Almeta Crayton. Crayton died in 2013.

Despite the weather, the pandemic and the sudden loss of one of the group’s leaders, the organization is continuing to push forward. 

“To Kentrell everybody was kinfolk,” Buford said.

Kentrell Minton took over the effort after Crayton’s death. He died unexpectedly less than two weeks ago. He was 38 years old.

“We got a community to feed so we're not going to let him down,” his wife, Amber Minton, said. “I just want him to know that we will continue on with his legacy that he cared for and loved so much."

The week started with providing food for families to make Thanksgiving meals of their own. Those who applied received a turkey, cans of corn and beans, potatoes, mac and cheese, eggs, cake mix and more. 

“[Kentrell]  would be very proud of what we're doing. I think Almeta's proud, too. I think they're both up there really proud of us,” Amber said. 

Instead of coming inside the church, COVID-19 restrictions had families driving through to pick up their food. 

"It's a blessing because a lot of people ain’t got it, but they're making a way for them to have it,” Janice Webster said who picked up a meal for her family. 

According to organizers more people have also asked for help this year - a couple hundred more.

Even though you could say there have been more downs than ups in 2020, there are still things to be grateful for. 

“Be thankful for what you have, some people can't be thankful because they don't have it,” Amber said.

“I'm still living, and I thank God for that," Webster said. 

The non-profit will still serve a Thanksgiving meal on Thursday carry-out style. It’s from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Columbia’s Senior Center.

For those who were unable to pick up their Thanksgiving baskets at the church on Monday and Tuesday, they can come by Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

"I want them to know that they are not alone and that we will do everything we can to make sure that everyone eats and has a good Thanksgiving,” Amber said.