eric_jones-irma-gonzales_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

WEST PARK — Ingrid Frederick and her mother Irma Gonzales were distributing Thanksgiving meals to needy people in her church community, having no idea how they were going to manage a Thanksgiving meal for their own family.

“I was telling my mother I didn’t know what kind of a Thanksgiving we were going to have. But I was [still] grateful because I knew we were going to be together,” said Frederick, a Miami Gardens resident.

What Frederick didn’t know was that her homeowners association was planning to give her family a Thanksgiving meal complete with a 10-pound turkey and a picnic basket full of canned food.

“I know that when you give you will always receive,” said Frederick. “The Lord has a way of working things out.”

Frederick and Gonzales were among more than 400 people who turned out for the 34th annual Mary Kendrick Thanksgiving Feast held at Mary Saunders Park in West Park on Nov. 23.

People from Lake Forest, Carver Ranches, Twin Lakes and Miami Gardens sat down with West Park residents for a meal of turkey, dressing, rice, stuffing, salad, fresh fruit and chocolate cake.

In addition, each of four homeowners associations chose one family within its area to give a turkey and food basket for Thanksgiving.

“The whole idea of community revolves around community concern. We should be concerned about one another,” said West Park Mayor Eric Jones. “We want to let people know we care. This event is to show what community is really all about.”

Participants came from nursing homes, churches and the wider community. Nearly 100 volunteers turned out, as well, from the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Memorial Hospital and other organizations.

The Kiwanis Club donated turkeys, Publix Supermarkets donated gift certificates and students of McFatter Institute cooked the food.

“This is a really nice event. It’s nice to see everyone getting together and no one is fighting or arguing. Everyone is just getting along,” said Carver Ranches resident Shakenya Johnson.

Mary Kendrick, a resident of Carver Ranches for 57 years, started the feast. She said it took the help of several organizations to make this year’s event possible.

“Everyone came together for this occasion,” she said.

Kendrick held the first Thanksgiving feast at West Park 34 years ago as a volunteer for what was then the Neighborhood Action Center in Carver Ranches. It moved to Hollywood for a few years and then returned to West Park.

At the time, she served as a youth counselor working with area children.

“What happened was their grandparents would come out for food and everything and one year I just said we can feed them. So, the kids and I — I did most of the cooking — we put it together. Everything else grew out of that,” said Kendrick, 75, who has six children, 26 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.

KHARY BRUYNING/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES. MAYORAL HELP: West Park Mayor Eric H. Jones, left, presents Irma Gonzales with a special gift basket from homeowners of Miami Gardens during the city’s 34th annual Mary Kendrick Thanksgiving Feast held Nov. 23 at Mary Saunders Park in West Park.