For many, family tops the list of things to be thankful for this year.
“Family is the most important thing,” said Dr. Rick Denning, director of Cleveland City Schools.
Denning said his family has received so many blessings that every day should be Thanksgiving. This year his family is gathering in North Carolina to celebrate together.
“Family and friends are the eternal treasures — more important than all the other ‘stuff’ we may fill our lives with,” said Johnny McDaniel, director of Bradley County Schools.
This year McDaniel, who will celebrate with approximately 40 members of his family, is most thankful for “God’s love and blessing” as well as his family.
In addition to family, Bradley County Mayor Gary Davis and Bradley County Clerk Donna Simpson are thankful for health.
Pastor Steve Lewis of Grace Assembly of God is especially thankful for his family’s health this year, as his wife has just recovered from surgery. Lewis said he is also thankful for a good year and for the Lord’s protection.
Andy Forsythe, director of religious education at St. Therese Catholic Church, said he was thankful for family, friends and the opportunity to serve the community.
“With Advent around the corner, I’m thankful that we have a blessed hope (in the coming of Jesus Christ),” Forsythe said.
Many, such as Simpson are also thankful for the Bradley County and Cleveland community.
“It’s (a) good place to raise your family,” she said. “It’s a big town, but it still has a small-town feeling.”
Steve Robinson, chair of the Cleveland/Bradley Public Library board of directors, said he was thankful to live in this community, “where we can walk down the street and feel safe and we can worship any way we want to and it is accepted.”
For Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate with family and friends while learning how their year has been.
“This year, in particular, Sandra and I have much to be thankful for. A traffic crash in May of this year left us with some injuries that are slowly healing — but our family and friends have been a tremendous support during this time. We can never say ‘thank you’ enough for all the prayers lifted for us. Every day should be a day of ‘thanks’ to God but it is good for one day a year to be set aside to focus on ‘giving thanks’ and being with family,” Rowland said.
Dr. Paul Conn, president of Lee university, will be spending the day in Phoenix, Ariz., with his wife’s family.
“I love an old-fashioned, traditional Thanksgiving — my perfect version is the Norman Rockwell image of three or more generations gathered around a table of turkey, mashed potatoes and other vegetables, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie for dessert,” Conn said. “I realize what a romanticized cliché that is, but still, it’s my favorite kind of Thanksgiving!”
While many in the community will be spending time with loved ones while enjoying traditional feasts, Dr. Carl Hite, president of Cleveland State Community College, said he will have to wait until Christmas for all his family to be together. Besides health and family, Hite is thankful for his good co-workers and the lovely weather of Cleveland this time of year.
Of course, every year food plays a major part in community celebrations.
“It’s become a tradition for me to make the dressing each year and now we have friends who place their orders for my dressing recipe. Our home is filled with the smell of sage, onions and celery for the few days before Thanksgiving Day,” Rowland said.
Davis enjoys pecan pie the most during Thanksgiving.
“My wife does an absolutely marvelous job with Thanksgiving dinners,” Hite said, making it impossible for him to pick his favorite dish.
McDaniel said turkey and pumpkin pie topped his list of Thanksgiving favorites. For Denning, turkey and dressing are at the top.
Whether traveling or staying in town, thankful hearts and family time are definitely highlights of a Cleveland Thanksgiving.