Laura Mitchell-Dendy began serving dinners to homeless men six years ago after loosing, Laufella “Vernon” Dendy, her husband of 11 years, to lung cancer the month before Thanksgiving. She started it in order to do something with her grief and to honor his memory as he had a “heart” for those less fortunate than him. Even after being laid off for the past 10 months from the work she did as a credit analyst for the past 15 years, she never doubted she would go through with her plans
Since it began in 2006, what started out as a event which she and her family did together has grown exponentially; volunteers began coming out of the wood work to help with the day. Her daughter, Janai Dendy, who was then 10 years old is now 18. For the last three years, Dendy, a recent graduate from Oakland Catholic High School, has had the help of her classmates and their parents. They would arrive early Thanksgiving morning to help set up, carve the copious amounts of turkey and ham, and put together salads in the large kitchen at Wesley Center AMEZ Church, in the Hill District, where the dinner has been held all these years.
This year was no different, volunteers turned up in droves and even though Mitchell-Dendy’s daughter has graduated and is now a freshman at Chatham College, the young women from her senior class still showed up to help out. The crowd that started out with just the men who reside at the YMCA across the street from the Church, has expanded to include the senior building across the street and the building down the street that is for the handicapped.
Mitchell-Dendy said, “When I started to not do this last year my daughter protested that this was the one connection she still had to her father, so I did it. Then I started not to do it this year because I did not have the same income, but here we are. I am not sure how long this is going to happen, but I will keep doing it until the time is up.”
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