Published November 21, 2012
A sign of fall: Barb's holiday meal a big drawROLF BOONE
The annual tradition known as Barb’s Family and Friends Thanksgiving continued Wednesday, attracting several hundred people in search of a hot meal, good company and a little music. Organizers had served 300 to 400 people by about 2 p.m. Wednesday and were prepared to serve as many as 1,800 to 2,000 meals, said Rodney O’Neill, who carried on the tradition of the community meal after his mother, Barb, passed away a few years ago. The event, which she founded, is in its 43rd year. Seeing fewer people at the Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings, which caters to low-income families and the homeless, was a good thing, he said. “I’m happy to say the numbers are a lot lower,” O’Neill said, adding that it could be a sign that the economy is improving. The meal attracted a number of volunteers, including boxer Andre Ward and his two sons, Andre Jr. and Malachi, both of whom helped out to serve food. Ward is O’Neill’s nephew. Ward, 28, won a boxing gold medal as a light heavyweight at the 2004 Summer Olympic games in Athens and is the current WBC and WBA super middleweight boxing champion. Ward, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his family, is set to defend his title Jan. 26 in Los Angeles, he said. Ward wanted to help out, not only because he has family from the area, including his wife, but because he wants his children to learn an important lesson. “It’s not just about us; it’s about giving back,” he said. Members of the Washington Federation of State Employees, Local 443, also pitched in, president Thornton Alberg said. The local has been a longtime supporter of the meal and this year increased its donation to the event. It was the first time for Alberg to take part. “It’s good that we can step up and make a difference,” he said.