Come as strangers, eat as family.
That's the goal of Gratefull, a community Thanksgiving lunch complete with turkey and dressing that will be held Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Hamilton Street in Dalton in front of the Burr Performing Arts Park.
"There was a man that saw a video we made promoting Gratefull, and he asked one of our team members exactly what it was," said Believe Greater Dalton project manager Allyson Coker. "He replied that he was excited to have a Thanksgiving event to go to since he always spends Thanksgiving alone since his wife passed. That single response makes all the efforts of our planning committee worth the time and energy that’s been invested into this great event for our community."
The event is being organized by Believe Greater Dalton, a public-private partnership of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce and local governments focused on six strategic areas to improve the community: educational outcomes, housing, entrepreneurship, economic development, downtown development and community pride.
"Someone brought this idea to the community pride committee last year," said Coker. "It was something they had experienced in Chattanooga, which had been doing it five years at that point, and they thought it was something Dalton would really embrace. A group called Causeway created it, as a way to bring the community together with no agenda, no charge."
Several people active with Believe Greater Dalton and other community organizations volunteered at the Chattanooga dinner last year to get a feel for what it takes to put on an event like that.
"That opened up the doors and convinced us this was something that we could do and that hopefully the community would embrace," Coker said.
Stephani Womack, director of Believe Greater Dalton's education partnerships, said Gratefull shows how Believe Greater Dalton has become "a catalyst for change and new ideas."
"If folks have an idea they can bring it to us and we'll find a way to implement that," she said.
A number of local restaurants are contributing food, including The Buckin’ Burrito, Cacao Dominican Restaurant, Café Ostro, Chick-fil-A of Dalton, The Chop Shop, Common Ground Coffee Shop, Crescent City Tavern, Cyra’s, Dos Bros, El Pollo Alegre, The Filling Station, Food City, Gondolier, Hamilton’s, Honey Baked Ham, Ice Castle, Kelly’s, La Esperanza, Lisa’s Café, Longhorn Steakhouse, Los Pablos #1 and #2, Mama Wilson’s Cookies & Cakes, Native, Publix, Sol de Mayo and Walnut Hill Farm.
Womack said they are prepared to feed 1,000. There will also be live music and games.
"We are going to close Hamilton Street between Crawford Street and Gordon Street, like we do for a Friday night concert," said Coker. "We are setting up big, long tables. The food will be set up on one side of the median, and a table for people to eat at on the other."
The forecast for Monday is sunny, but if it rains, Gratefull will take place underneath the parking deck next to Burr Park.
Each person who comes will get a sticker.
"They come in six different colors, and the goal is that they will find someone with the same color sticker they don't already know and they'll introduce themselves and get to know each other," said Womack.
There's no cost to eat and no need to make reservations.
"Just show up and help us give thanks for all of the blessings we have," said Coker.