Nearly two decades of the famous Thanksgiving feast, as seen through the eyes of its founder

COLUMBIA, Mo 11/27/13 (Beat Byte) -- Almeta Crayton's Everybody Eats celebrates its 16th year tomorrow, little over a month after the death of its founder

Many regard Crayton as one of Columbia's most important leaders ever, not only for her charitable works, three-terms on the City Council, and tireless political action -- but also for her one-liners, some of them priceless.

Crayton knew how to say more with less better than most.  It was a skill she used on the Council dais, in public hearings, with the media, and of course -- with Everybody Eats.  Here's a look back at CoMo's popular Thanksgiving Day feast, in Almeta Crayton's own words.

"I want people who need help to realize they are not alone."
Everybody Eats, 2013

"At the tables, servers laugh with guests as they all fill up on Thanksgiving treats. Some basketball players sneak slices of pie while greeting guests.  And in the crowd, Crayton stops at tables and, with a big smile, thanks people for coming.

"If they’re going to come, they’re going to come.  They always come."
Everybody Eats, 2008

“Nobody talks about the working poor.  A lot of people are suffering in silence, and they’ll be too embarrassed to go out there to Department of Family Services and say they can’t make it, but they’ll come to me.  And they look well-to-do, but they ain’t got a thing.”
Everybody Eats, 2009

Crayton has been promoting the "Everybody Eats" dinner for six years at Lou’s Lounge, 1020 E. Walnut St.  Last year, the First Ward Columbia city councilwoman and volunteers fed 300 people and gave away 479 food baskets.  Crayton eschews the idea that she’s part of a tradition.

"I just do my own thing.  Everybody serves a different population."
Everybody Eats, 2004

"It doesn’t matter who you are, if you don’t have anywhere to go, come on down.  We’ll have a little fun and a lot of food.  It’ll be a good time."
Everybody Eats, 2007

Smiling in the St. Luke hall yesterday, surrounded by the Butterball turkeys and stacks of canned goods, Almeta said spreading goodwill is a beautiful thing both for the giver and the recipient.  "It’s like playing tag - somebody tags you, and then you go tag somebody else," she said of the way kindness spreads in the community.
Everybody Eats, 2008

"We’ve just had some beautiful people in the community reach out and give."
Everybody Eats, 2003

“When I was a kid, we never went to the government for help, but what we had was rent parties,” said Crayton, referring to parties in low-income neighborhoods where a hat is passed to help a family cover the rent.  “So here we’re having a Thanksgiving party starting at noon.”
Everybody Eats, 2009

The community as a whole, however, always steps up, Crayton said. "If Joe Public doesn't help me, I don't do it."
Everybody Eats, 2012 

Often, she said, senior citizens are alone for the holidays, and she wants to make sure they “have something to carry them over” for Christmas.  “We always go back and check on them,” Crayton said.
Everybody Eats, 2011

“I’m seeing a lot of new faces this year.  These are people that normally don’t ask, but they’re calling me.  People who you least expect.” 
Everybody Eats, 2009