The Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center (630 9th St., Rock Island), on Friday kicked off their 33rd annual free Thanksgiving meals for the community.

Free meals will be distributed through Sunday via curbside pickup at two locations:

  • MLK Center, 630 9th Street in Rock Island
    • Friday, Nov. 18 from 1-6 p.m.
    • Saturday, Nov. 19 from 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
    • Sunday, Nov. 20 from 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • TMBC at the Lincoln Center, 318 E. 7th Street in Davenport
    • Saturday, Nov. 19 from noon-3 p.m.

The goal for this year is to provide 5,000 plates of food, according to a Friday release from the MLK Center. Meals include turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, green beans, corn, cranberry sauce and dessert. Meals will also be delivered throughout the Quad Cities.

Volunteers distribute free meals at the King Center at 630 9th St., Rock Island, on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

This event is made possible through the hard work and dedication of hundreds of volunteers, many of whom have been coming back for more than a decade. At the official kickoff this afternoon, longtime MLK Center employee (now retired) Ida Robinson carved a ceremonial turkey, in honor of her role in launching this beloved holiday MLK Center tradition in 1989 and carrying it on for many years. David Cribbs, whose father was instrumental in this event’s origins, was also in attendance.

Another long-time volunteer, Carl Johnson, spent the last week smoking 70 cases of turkeys. AJ Julien has been present for all of the MLK Center’s 33 Thanksgivings. This year, you can find him buzzing around the MLK Center banquet room giving assignments to volunteers, and managing the hundreds of details that make an event like this possible.

This year’s Thanksgiving Dinner is generously supported by the following sponsors: HyVee, Deere & Company, Moline Foundation, Quad City Bank & Trust, Rock Island Township, UnityPoint Health Trinity, Whitey’s Ice Cream, Huiskamp Collins Investments LLC, Eaton, Cribbs Landscaping, South Rock Island Township, Liberty Packaging, and Jim’s Rib Haven.

Jerry Jones, executive director of the Martin Luther King Center in Rock Island, talks about the 33rd-annual free Thanksgiving meal program, which started Friday, Nov. 18, 2022 (photo by Bryan Bobb).

Key partners for this event include Dohrn Transfer, TMBC at the Lincoln Center, NEST Café, Two Rivers YMCA, Chef Keys by KC Ross, and The Well-Seasoned Woman.

While the MLK Center each year served hundreds of meals in person in Rock Island, in 2020, during COVID, the King Center increased the number of meals for pickup and delivery to the thousands. In 2021, they served 3,500 meals and this year’s goal is 5,000.

“We have been overwhelmed by support from sponsors, partners & volunteers throughout the Quad Cities,” the King Center said in the release.

This year, they have added a distribution point in Davenport for the first time. In previous years, they delivered to Iowa, but this year people can pick up meals at TMBC at The Lincoln Center (318 E. 7th St., Davenport) on Saturday, Nov. 19 from noon to 3 p.m.

Dohrn Transfer, the MLK Center’s neighbor to the northwest, is handling most of the deliveries; in addition, their employees volunteer their time, and the company organized an internal fundraiser with proceeds benefitting the MLK Center’s Thanksgiving event.

For more information, visit the MLK Center website.