1,200 count their blessings: Thanksgiving feast, 'sense of belonging'
Nov 22, 2012 (The Knoxville News-Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Roughly five years ago, Tanna Cox-Cole was an addict, an alcoholic and a hostage -- someone nearing her end after a spell of "running the streets."
That changed, though, when the police responded to a domestic violence call at the home where she stayed, and they took her to the Knox Area Rescue Ministries.
She lived in the shelter, she got treatment, she learned how to take care of herself.
On Thursday, she continued to give back to those who were once like her.
"It's great to be here and to be able to help," said Cox-Cole, 50. "There was a time when I didn't think I'd be able to say that."
Cox-Cole, a kitchen leader at KARM, was among the staffers Thursday who spent their Thanksgiving afternoon in downtown Knoxville, making sure that at least 1,200 of those less fortunate had their choice of pie or puddings, after a large meal of turkey, ham, green beans, stuffing and much more.
"I was in the shelter for about a year and my body broke down, but I wasn't on drugs or alcohol, so I was able to get through it with the help here," she said. "I also had God. And whenever I'd have nightmares, I'd study the Bible verses."
Cox-Cole took a culinary arts course, got an apartment and married. She said she's not "recovering" from her past, but rather "delivered" from it.
In the meantime, she'll continue to run the KARM kitchen, like she did Thursday, when she worked with dozens of the almost 200 volunteers who spent the day greeting, feeding and guiding folks to the 20 tables where they would be fed.
It was part of the annual event that's taken place for more than two decades at the KARM headquarters in downtown Knoxville and is sponsored by Rothchild Catering.
"I want to try to give back to the people who are not as fortunate as I am," said Glenn See, a Greenback resident, who carried platters to the tables.
Volunteers also passed out socks, gloves and hats. And U.S. Cellular was on hand to provide free phone calls to anyone who needed to call family or friends.
"I called my children," said Teresa Kowalczyk, who moved to the area from Kentucky after she lost her job. "I can't be with my family today, so it's a sad time."
She added that Thursday's meal "means a lot" because she was around others.
Burt Rosen, the organization's president and CEO, agreed with her sentiments.
"There are very few of us who want to be away from the people we know during the holidays, and this (event) fosters a sense of belonging," he said. "So I would suggest that coming for the meal is secondary for some of the people. I think they're also coming for the community."
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