Sonya Jackson’s filling up on Thanksgiving kindness
November 20th, 2016
Twenty years ago, Sonya Jackson didn’t want to end up in “another food coma” on Thanksgiving.
“I decided to do service instead,” she says
The Chicago business consultant started small, first working in shelters. Then she took meals and toys to families in a pediatric oncology unit. That evolved into cooking mass dinners in communities with people in need. First, for a few hundred people. Last year, family and friends waited on 600 guests–no one waits in a line for a meal. Jackson hopes to serve 1,000 guests this year at Catalyst School and San Jose Obrero Mission, both on the West Side.
“I’ve built my life and career through fostering great relationships,” says Jackson, who before consulting worked for or headed up the charitable foundations connected to Sara Lee, Sears, BP and United airlines. “I can pick up the phone and make calls and make things happen quickly.”
She used to underwrite the dinner but over the years it’s evolved into a community effort of friends and family. Last week, a donor who wants to stay anonymous paid for the $700 in produce from Stanley’s Market.
Other friends have sent food–four turkeys here, five hams there. If they’re not serving, they’re helping prep the meals. Soho House, a membership social club, has donated kitchen space and refrigerators this year as well as volunteers from its staff and membership list. Jackson’s a member, too.
“It’s an embarrassment of riches in terms of people wanting to volunteer,” she says of the 100-plus who will help with this year’s feasts.
They’ll cook 1,200 pounds of potatoes, 1,500 pounds of greens and green beans and a combined 100 turkeys and boneless turkey breasts.
“I see it as a calling,” says Jackson who believes “Good people can change the world.” She says it so often, her friends repeat it.