RALEIGH, N.C. — For some, Thanksgiving Day means giving back to their community.

What You Need To Know

  • The Say Grace and The Giving Tree initiatives provide hot meals and warm winter items

  • Tranita Alexander and Betty Jo Howell-Jackson helped prepare meals for over 200 on Thanksgiving

  • They say they want to show younger generations how important giving back is

Two women in Raleigh are leading the Say Grace and The Giving Tree initiatives to help provide hot meals and warm winter items for the community.

The food truck Soul in a Bowl and the nonprofit Woven and Friends partnered for the second year to make this happen.

Tranita Alexander, who ran the Say Grace initiative, and Betty Jo Howell-Jackson, the founder of Woven and Friends, said they grew up giving back to their community.

“This is what we can do. This is our reasonable service. This is like the least we can do,” Alexander said. “Maybe no one’s probably ever provided food for us, but the teachers that poured into me, the other adults and aunts and uncles, and grandparents and extended family that has poured into me over the years, that’s what this is all about. This is like the storytelling, this is the traditions, so that we can pass onto our kids for generations to come.” 

Howell-Jackson says it’s all about family.

“Growing up, I’ve seen the challenges myself in the rural parts of North Carolina and this from experience, testimony,” Howell-Jackson said. “So in doing so, being a part of this gives me the opportunity to share with others where there weren’t an opportunity for me or our family.”

To get ready for their event, they prepped food for over 200 people. Last year, they said they had a great response to their initiatives and saw how much the community enjoyed them being there, so this year it was a no-brainer to do it again.

“First, it was just giving out turkeys, then it was just like toiletry drives, and it has just grown. And here we are at this point, taking on the task and challenge of feeding our city for anyone who may be in need, so I’m looking forward to just keep evolving and growing,” Alexander said.

They said another part to all of this is being able to teach the younger generation how important giving back is.

“It’s also important that the young people see us giving back to others who may have not reached that level of success yet, or are just in their between because they are probably on their way, but what do you look like not helping someone along the way?” Alexander said.

“We’ve been doing this for an extremely long time and our families have been a complete part of that, our children have seen it and it gives them an opportunity to be a part of it, and now they are talking to their friends,” Howell-Jackson said.

Alexander’s mom is also a part of the action, as she is using her food truck to help provide those hot meals. She said for her this initiative is showing others that people out their care.

“No one’s talking about it, but someone’s doing something about it and taking their time to show you that someone cares,” Evaline Townsend, owner and operator of Soul in a Bowl, said. “I mean, a lot of them are being pushed aside, but someone really cares and is doing it just for them.”

Along with filling people’s bellies on Thanksgiving Day, these friends will give away winter essentials. They have worked with partners to collect things like hats, scarves and gloves to give out.

One person who has been a part of that mission is chef Abbi Jeffries, a citizen of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation.

“This is something that is near and dear to all of our hearts where we have half of the team have experienced food insecurity, and so our goal as Handewa Farms is to feed the world one mouth at a time,” Jeffries said.

Howell-Jackson and Alexander said they’re happy others want to support their mission.

They started giving out free food and essential items at Moore Square in Raleigh at 11 a.m. Thursday. They did this at the Women’s Center, Shaw University and St. Augustine’s University.