Oklahomans gather for feasts at community centers

Friday, November 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Four years ago, Bryan Harrington came to the community Thanksgiving dinner at Food and Shelter for Friends when he was a little down on his luck and it was the only place he could go to get a meal.

On Thursday, he returned for another reason.

``I was able to get back on my feet, and I just kept coming back because of the people,'' said Harrington, who works at a local technology center.

Harrington was one of about 250 people who feasted on turkey and cranberry sauce. The shelter was one of dozens of community centers that opened their doors to those who might not otherwise have eaten.

In Norman, about 30 volunteers cooked, served and delivered 20 turkeys, potatoes, dressing, rolls, green beans, cranberry sauce and pies.

One volunteer, Don Ewals, was in charge of mashing potatoes in the shelter's kitchen.

``I just decided it was something I wanted to do,'' said Ewals, a Norman postal worker who is from Montana. ``I don't have any family here, so it gives me a way of giving back.''

In Oklahoma City, more than 1,100 people were served at the Salvation Army Thanksgiving dinner at the Coca-Cola Bricktown Event Center, said Maj. Kenneth Johnson of the Salvation Army.

Many of those served were homeless or disadvantaged people.

``The response from the community this year was just tremendous,'' Johnson said. ``It went very well.''

He said he thinks volunteerism is up this year due to the September 11 attacks. About 350 volunteers showed up to help.

Salvation Army bus driver Lumanuel Smith said he picked up at least 75 people for the dinner. He left with two large pumpkins tucked under his arms to take back to the shelter.

``I think we're gonna decorate these,'' Smith said.

Thursday also proved deadly on Oklahoma highways for a 10-year-old Van Buren, Ark., boy and a 37-year-old Locust Grove man, authorities said.

Brandon J. King suffered head, arm and internal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene of the 11:25 a.m. accident on Interstate 40 in McIntosh County, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said.

Brandon was riding in a car driven by his mother, Michelle Viveros, when another vehicle trying to avoid an accident swerved into the car.

In Mayes County, Dan Qualls was killed when his motorcycle ran off a county road, striking a ditch and a rock. The impact threw Qualls off the vehicle about 21 feet, troopers said.

He suffered massive head injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene of the 6 p.m. accident. The patrol said Qualls was not wearing a helmet.