The traditional Thanksgiving dinner usually involves a family gathered around a table to enjoy a delicious meal.
What happens when a young man without a home doesn’t have a family and no plans for a hot meal? At the Crossroads facility at the Blount County Children’s Home, they have a place to call home during the holidays.
Crossroads is a facility geared toward providing a stable temporary living environment for up to eight young men who are without a home. Crossroads provides a place to stay while getting on their feet and connecting with services that help them become independent and self-sufficient.
The operation opened in August so this was the first Thanksgiving for the residents. Two young men were at Crossroads when Robin McDaniel, food columnist for Blount Today, learned from the children’s home executive director Rod Jackson that they had no plans for a hot meal on Thanksgiving morning.
“He said there would be two or three guys who did not have plans for Thanksgiving, and I couldn’t stand the thought of that. I wanted them to wake up and smell turkey in the oven,” McDaniel said. “That’s just a good memory -- waking up and smelling turkey cooking, and I wanted them to have that.”
McDaniel made it happen. “I got with some of my family and friends, and they all pitched in and said, ‘let me fix this dish’ and were all happy to do it.”
McDaniel thanked her family who helped out and brought dishes, including her dad, Robert Davis; sisters, Gail Hill and Becky Davis; sisters-in-law Melissa Davis and Hiroko Davis; and her best friend Addie Loftis. Johnelle and Rod Jackson helped with food items also.
“Thank you to everyone,” McDaniel said. “I wanted to make Thanksgiving special for the few residents that were there that day, and I think we succeeded,” she said.
Jackson praised McDaniel for her willingness to help the young men at the facility. “We are very, very fond of Robin McDaniel. She has been an extreme blessing to us. She has come on board and assisted residents of Crossroads in cooking, table etiquette, nutrition and was even available for our Thanksgiving Day feast,” he said. “All of us, myself and family, residents of Crossroads and Robin McDaniel’s family all got together and cooked parts of the meal.”
The Thanksgiving meal at Crossroads created a family atmosphere. “That’s what this program is about, re-establishing relationships,” Jackson said. “Sometimes family isn’t those blood-relatives. We’re establishing family at Crossroads.”
Jackson said Crossroads is meeting an unmet need of homeless young adult males, taking them from a state of homelessness with no resources and support system to a state of independent living. “That’s a tough job for any adolescent or young adult in today’s world, even those with support systems in place,” he said. “We provide education in daily life skills, job preparation and continuing education. All the things we would normally do in households, we do here.”
Jackson said that since the program opened on Aug. 22 one person has exited the program into independent living and is doing well. Currently an 18-year-old and a 21-year-old live at the facility, he said.
The facility’s new director is Thomas “T.J.” DeMar and Daniel Everett is a part-time case manager.
“We appreciate any and all community involvement we can get,” DeMar said. “We greatly appreciate Robin for coming out and helping these guys.”
McDaniel said Crossroads board member Tom Eustice came to her several months ago about volunteering her time once week to show the residents some things they needed to know about cooking. “I didn’t have to think about it. I said that’s something I would like to do,” she said.
McDaniel said she didn’t teach cooking or baking immediately but instead took time to explain to the residents some of the essentials they needed for a kitchen. “You don’t need a lot of appliances or utensils. You need a Crock Pot. It is very important,” she said. “A cast iron skillet is good and a 13-by-9-inch pan, these are a few things they need.”
McDaniel said she showed the young men recipes, explained measurements and also spent time working on table manners and the importance of respect.