Thanksgiving Dinner (Photo by Karen Lee)

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ALTON - Kennedy Smith and his nonprofit Unity in the Community will be hosting a Thanksgiving dinner and several other events as the holiday season approaches.

“I rode in on the bus, and just coming through the town of Alton, there are so many people homeless, hungry, and I feel that the community shouldn’t be like that,” Smith said. “It never stops for Unity in the Community. It’s that time of the year that Unity in the Community and a couple of other organizations that I’m partnered with this year, we’re giving back to the community.”

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, community members are invited to gather at Millennium Temple Church of God in Christ, located at 801 Blair Avenue in Alton, for a community Thanksgiving. Smith will be wearing the apron, and he thanks his wife, Tiffany L. Thomas-Smith, and his brother and community partners for supporting the dinner. He named Alderwoman Rosetta Brown, Mayor David Goins, First Lady Sheila Goins, Sarah Porter and Kim Brice-Hollis with the Christina L. Brice Foundation as a few of the people he regularly works with.

“This is going to be an awesome dinner,” he added. “We’re just trying to give back to the community and let somebody know that you are loved and you can come and get a warm meal.”

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Unity in the Community is also sponsoring a toy drive for the holidays. All donations will go to children who have an incarcerated parent. Smith spoke to a few kids, and the main items on their wish lists are board games, remote control cars, dolls, bicycles, clothing and winter gear.

“We’re not asking for expensive items. I mean, Big Lots has toys. Dollar General has toys. Just something — a baby doll or something — to let a kid know that they are loved,” Smith said. “But, you know, it’s just not about toys. It’s reaching out to the community and helping someone. If you’ve never been in this situation, you don’t know how it feels.”

Smith started Unity in the Community in 2018. Since then, he has completed several grassroots projects to meet needs in Alton and surrounding areas. He said the organization is “really going to elevate” next year.

“That was the reason for me creating Unity in the Community, because when I was hungry, someone fed me. Somebody gave me a jacket. So now it’s my time to give back,” Smith explained. “And it takes funds to generate this, people. It takes funds to feed the hungry. It takes funds to take care of a family. It’s about giving back and showing someone that they are loved.”

Those who can bring food to the Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, are encouraged to. The nonprofit will also host a Christmas dinner next month. In addition to the toy drive, they are currently sponsoring a blanket drive for unhoused Riverbend residents. You can drop off blankets, clothes and personal care items at 204 Big Arch Road in Godfrey.

Donate to Unity in the Community through Cash App at $KjSmith0531. You can also contact Smith at 618-737-3425 for more information, or follow him on Facebook for updates.

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