When Anita Ponder was president of the Macon City Council, she saw the city purchase Terminal Station and redevelop the property into what it is today.
So for her, it seemed a very natural move for it serve as the new home for the annual Anita Ponder & Friends Holiday Feast For All.
I have all kinds of feelings being here, she said Wednesday afternoon in the midst of her 18th annual event, that includes a feast, donations of clothing and toys, and free haircuts to those in need. I was on City Council when this was purchased, and Ive seen the evolution of Terminal Station. It was made for this kind of activity, to bring the community together. Its such a beautiful building.
It also has the necessary space to host the ever-growing event. Previously held at Mollys Cafe on Cherry Street and the historic Douglass Theatre, the event draws more than 1,500 people from across the community each year, not to mention more than 200 volunteers. The other venues didnt have enough space to accommodate everyone at once, meaning long lines of people often had to wait outside in the cold for their turns to eat or participate in one of the other activities at the event.
Ponder said the space inside Terminal Station is more than adequate, meaning no one had to stand outside to wait and there was plenty of room for the food, the clothing drive, the toy drive, live music and the haircuts all under one roof. The event even added a book drive this year after a volunteer purchased several books to give away.
It was not anything by design; it was something a volunteer did, Ponder said. The kids were really going for the books. I think thats fantastic.
Ponder said in addition to serving Meals on Wheels customers for Christmas, volunteer drivers added routes to anyone who called ahead of time to order a meal and delivered to other counties besides Bibb County.
Jackie Sapp, of Warner Robins, who has volunteered for the event over the last several years with her family, said she was raised to give back to others, so volunteering on Christmas Day isnt a burden.
I was always raised in a family that was giving, so this comes from childhood, said Sapp, who helped to give away clothes Wednesday. (Terminal Station) is very, very convenient. Its very spacey and wide. This is the most organized its been since Ive been here.
Shyanne Grable, of Macon, attended the event for the first time, along with her 9-month-old daughter, Mavis Brown.
She said she heard about it through the grapevine and was able to get some clothes and presents for her daughter.
I had a great time, she said. Its a wonderful event to come to.
Ponder still lives in Macon, but spends a great deal of time traveling across North America to work in corporate law.
She said online social media such as Skype and Facebook made it easier to help organize the event, even when she was outside of Macon.
Without the social media or having so many volunteers, it wouldnt be possible to pull off the feast each year.
Sometimes, the biggest gift is people having the opportunity to come and make this possible, she said. But for them, this would have been hard to pull off.
To contact Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.