ROGERSVILLE — Dr. Blaine Jones has helped warm the hearts and bellies of thousands of people over the past 15 years with the annual People Loving People free Thanksgiving dinner in Rogersville.
Now he has a keepsake from those events to keep him warm.
Edith Robbins is one of a handful of original volunteers for the Thanksgiving dinner, which has grown from serving only a few hundred people the first year in 2004 to more than 3,000 the past few years.
Like every volunteer, Robbins gets a PLP T-shirt each year, but after each event was over, Robbins never wore that particular shirt again. After 15 years, they were starting to pile up.
Robbins came up with a good idea about how to make use of those old PLP T-shirts, while at the same time rewarding Jones, an event co-founder, for the warmth and comfort he helps bring thousands of people every Thanksgiving Day.
After about two weeks of work, Robbins presented Jones with a quilt she made by hand using heart-shaped patterns cut around the event logo from all of her old PLP T-shirts.
“I had all those shirts, and of course I never wear them again. And I thought, ‘I hate for them to just set there,’ ” Robbins told the Times News. “So I thought I would do something for Blaine because he does so much for everybody else. I made it for him.”
Robbins added, “I thought, what better way to do it than to show that these shirts are being put to good use?”
Robbins cut the PLP logos off the front of her T-shirts, but even after 15 years, there weren’t enough to complete the quilt.
She took some of the leftover material to Mark DeWitte, another PLP co-founder, who works for a printing company, and he was able to duplicate the number of logo patterns she needed.
Robbins’ specialty for every PLP Thanksgiving dinner is dressing, and for many years she and Jones’ sister Karen partnered to make all the dressing for the event.
As the dinners grew, they had to bring in extra help, but they continued making dressing together every year until Karen passed away in 2015.
Jones was completely taken by surprise when he was presented the quilt. He said it reminded him of Karen and a lot of good times.
“I was shocked,” he told the Times News earlier this week. “I couldn't believe that she would do that for me — to go through and get every year and cut them out, and put them on Tennessee orange and white especially. That’s special. It’s a lot of memories. A lot of great stories that we’ve had through the years. Fellowship.”
Jones added, “I look at her and the first thing I think of is my sister. She (Karen) worked in it every year with her (Robbins) until she passed away, and that means a lot.”
Jones initially had the quilt put up, but his kids liked it, so they’ve been using it on their beds.
“I try to take good care of it because it’s a beautiful piece of work,” Jones said. “A lot of memories.”
The quilt was presented to Jones earlier this year, but with the 16th annual PLP Thanksgiving dinner less than a week away, he decided that bringing the quilt out to show off might be a good way of reminding folks he still needs volunteers for Thursday.
Every year PLP gathers donations and volunteers to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, dressing and gravy, green beans, corn, rolls, cranberry sauce and a dessert. Anyone who wants a meal is invited to attend the event in person or to have a meal delivered to their home.
The dinner will be prepared and served at Joseph Rogers Primary School, 2001 E. Main St., Rogersville, on Thanksgiving Day under the direction of Head Chef Russ Williamson.
Meals will be served in the school cafeteria from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., or anyone can call and have a free meal delivered for every member of the household.
Anyone who wants information about volunteering on Thanksgiving, wants a meal delivered, or needs a ride to enjoy the meal at JRP, can call the same number: (423) 921-2726.
Jones said the cooking staff is pretty much set, volunteers are needed in other areas.
“We especially need drivers, and we need cleanup crew,” Jones said. “The good Lord will provide.”