Baton Rouge celebrates Thanksgiving with marathons, volunteer work

Things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge spent the day celebrating Thanksgiving in a variety of ways - from volunteering, to racing through the city streets.

At an hour when most were still in bed, some started turkey day off with a foot race. The annual Turkey Trot brought a record-breaking 1,600 runners to the downtown streets.

"We eat a lot later today, so I want to get my exercise in," said runner Callea McGehee. "A couple of friends of mine do this every year - it is sort of a high school reunion."

There was a one kilometer race and a five kilometer race. Many younger kids participated in the earlier of the two. The money raised went to the March of Dimes.

Some racers were arguably more festive than others. Chad Gautreaux was dressed as a pilgrim. His family members were dressed as turkeys, Native Americans, and more.

"That's the wife's doing," he joked.

Across town, an assembly line of more than 100 volunteers at St. Vincent de Paul served meals to more than 600 people in need.

"These are somebody's mom, dad, sister, and cousin," said Nicky Shills, a volunteer who has served on Thanksgiving for 21 years.

"It's really nice to be able to come back and give them the same experience at Thanksgiving that I do," said Tyrone Scott, a teenager who has volunteered for the past three years.

Although a turkey meal with all the fixings is a key part of the holiday, Shills said volunteers can provide more than just food.

"Hug them. I need a hug everyday, everybody does," she said.

St. Paul Catholic Church also opened its arms wide to the community on Thanksgiving, including to those celebrating their very first Thanksgiving.

Newly-arrived refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo celebrated the holiday alongside members of the Baton Rouge community.

"When I reached Baton Rouge, I found so many people are so kind and so joyful. If they see someone else, they want to assist you," said Assumani Fiston Salumu, a refugee who settled in the parish just three months ago.

Before coming to the United States, the men waited in a refugee camp for approximately eight years. They faced religious persecution in their home country.

"To be resettled in the United States is not something easy - lots of process," Salumu said.

Father Rick Andrus organized the community dinner. Reflecting on the recent concerns circulating in the media and amongst presidential candidates about refugees in American, he said it is key that people open their hearts and be accepting to those who are from a different place.

"As Catholics, as Christians, and Americans, that's what we do. We welcome people. Our ancestors were either coming here looking for freedom or were brought here and had to work for their freedom," Andrus said. "If that's what they went through and this is what we've become, we have an awesome responsibility to be witnesses around us that this is what it means to be American."

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