Holiday cheer: Lattimore returning to host Thanksgiving
Subheadline: Former Gamecocks football star, Bar-B-Q Grill will help feed Jasper families
The giving at Thanksgiving continues.
For the fourth consecutive year former Gamecocks football star Marcus Lattimore and his family will be in Ridgeland on Thanksgiving to help serve free meals.
The Marcus Lattimore Foundation, through a partnership with Randy Horton’s Bar-B-Grill, fed more than 900 people last year and this year Horton said the goal is to reach 1,000.
In 2014, when the initiative began, the Lattimores and the Bar-B-Q-Grill served 400 people.
Horton said he’s amazed at how it has grown.
“To me, it makes my Thanksgiving complete knowing we’ve fed people,” he said. “It’s the least I can do.”
The doors will open at 10:30 a.m. Thursday and food will be served until about 2:30 p.m. The meals will also be given to senior citizens on the county’s Meals on Wheels route. Thomas Heyward’s football players and coach Nic Shuford are expected to volunteer at the Bar-B-Q-Grill.
The boxed-meal menu includes turkey, macaroni and cheese, gravy, sweet potatoes, potato salad and coleslaw. For dessert, there’s banana pudding.
Horton said the buffet will include barbecue and chicken and likely strawberry shortcake and chocolate pudding.
“It’s a blessing to be a part of it,” Horton said.
Lattimore, 26, said he’s been overwhelmed by how the county’s supported him and his family.
“Jasper County is special to me because of how I was embraced,” said Lattimore, who grew up in Duncan. “Jasper County is somewhat of my second home now because so many people have welcomed me with open arms.”
Logan Thomas, a senior at Thomas Heyward and the team’s quarterback, said he appreciates that Lattimore is from the Upstate, but has taken time to give back to the Lowcountry.
“He’s a very energtic and motivated guy,” Thomas said.
Vernon Smith, Lattimore’s stepfather, said he’s thrilled at the amount of people who’ve benefited from the meals. He’s met people from the town, the county and travelers off the interstate. Each Thanksgiving brings new stories and great experiences.
Last year, three Michigan natives were in Jasper County helping clean up after October’s Hurricane Matthew and enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal. Two years ago, the meals fed a family who moved to the area after the flooding in Columbia.
“When we started we just wanted to get the word out as much as we could,” Smith said. “It’s always crazy to hear the numbers afterwards. And people say they wouldn’t have eaten today, that this was the only place to eat. It’s just amazing. That’s encouraged us to continue.”
Said Lattimore: “To meet people from all over Hardeeville, Ridgeland and also Beaufort who may not have family and I can sit with them and hear stories and enjoy fellowship, that’s the best part.”
Lattimore, who coaches Heathwood Hall’s varsity football team in Columbia, started his foundation in 2013. He wants to help young athletes develop and he wants to continue to give back.
The foundation emphasizes Christian values, developing life skills, education, and health and wellness. It also helps give medical assistance to high school athletes with severe sports injuries who might have inadequate health coverage.
In 2014, Lattimore decided to help families on Thanksgiving through his foundation. He had rehabbed his 2011 knee injury at University of South Carolina with former Thomas Heyward standout Jacob Baker, who’d also suffered a knee injury.
Their families became friendly and years later, when Lattimore wanted to feed people on the holiday, Smith called Jacob’s father, Jimmy, who quickly was able to make some contacts and get a group together to make things happen.
The altruism hasn’t stopped.
”Thanksgiving is one of the holidays that should be enjoyed with friends and family,” Smith said. “What better way than to give a free meal to people who can’t afford it.”
To volunteer on Thanksgiving, call Horton at 843-368-3017.