Hundreds of volunteers packed and delivered bags of food for Cookie's Thanksgiving. The holiday effort was named after the late founding executive director of of Other Options, a non-profit organization supporting Oklahomans with HIV and AIDS.
The current executive director and Cookie's daughter, Mary Arbuckle, tells News 4 they were able to provide meals to at least 800 families on Thursday.
"We try to service the whole family, so we had anywhere from one adult to 14 family members," said Arbuckle. "We know we will always have the Other Options clients which is usually anywhere from 700 to 800 and then we want to help outside of that."
Volunteers began packing bags on Thursday morning at Sunnyside Diner before making 210 stops delivering food to Other Options' clients. Diner co-owner Ali Cunningham said it cost less than $10 a meal per person.
"We just spread the word. You give people the opportunity to do something. It’s easy to donate $6.67," said Cunningham.
Clients also had the option of picking up their bags at Other Options' center on NW 51st Street. Bob Brand and Scott Byler drove from Ponca City.
"This is a treat for us coming up on Thanksgiving. This is our Thanksgiving," said Brand.
At City Rescue Mission, roughly 1,000 warm meals were also served at their annual lunch. The homeless center provides room for 640 beds, serving both men and women. The lunch was cooked by the clients of the shelter, including John Anderson has been living there for a few months.
"It was a little overwhelming when I first got in there, but it’s an amazing thing to be able to do all that," said Anderson.
The meal is shared with volunteers who spent Thursday afternoon getting to know the men and women who live at the shelter. City Rescue Mission CEO Tom Jones says they started serving the Thanksgiving lunch 10 years ago.
"You can take a person who has lost everything and feels like there’s no hope, you’d be surprised where that hope begins. It can begin in one meal, one moment of time that they feel somebody cares and doesn’t judge them for the mistakes they’ve made," explained Jones.
Anderson hopes one day, he can give back.
"It’s fantastic that people come down and do all this. When I was in that position, I didn’t bother," he said. "From now on, if I ever do get to that position and when I do, I’m going to be out there helping out."
According to Jones, there were about 300 volunteers the first year they began serving Thanksgiving lunch. This year, there were about 200 people on the waiting list.