Mona Jimerson can’t even begin to estimate how much food fills the tables during the annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Luncheon – a troop of volunteer cooks, restaurants and businesses provide the meal, feeding as many as 500 officers, first responders and other guests.
“When can I feel safer than when I have everybody here?” she joked Friday.
This year’s event is set for Tuesday, Dec 19: the first plates are served as early as midmorning and the last may not go out the door until after dark. Jimerson’s on the lookout for helpers for the upcoming outreach.
The crowd includes police, deputies, jailers, volunteer firefighters, EMTs, disaster relief personnel, judges, municipal employees, elected officials and many more visiting the home of Rusk County Attorney Micheal Jimerson in Henderson. Dozens of agencies from Henderson, Kilgore, Rusk County, Gregg, Smith and surrounding areas are represented.
“It starts on your lunch hour, whatever your lunch hour is,” Mona Jimerson said. “People start coming at about 10:45. I’ve had people show up as late as 5 p.m.
“When it’s over, we gather up all the leftovers and we distribute it between the agencies so that the ones who didn’t get to come or the ones who were on the night shift, whatever the case may be, still get to eat.”
With a little more than a week until this year’s meal, Jimerson is looking for all the help she can get, from volunteers to help serve the food to businesses contributing cash donations or cook-teams to restaurants catering desserts.
The past two years each have seen about 500 meals served. With sisters, Valerie Melton and Becky Holbrook helping lead the charge, Jimerson tracks plates and to-go boxes to keep the count. About four-fifths of the law enforcement diners come in person.
Some supporters provide tents, others bring out tables, chairs, refrigerators and smoking trailers.
“We take what we can get in volunteers,” Jimerson said, welcoming anyone to give her a call at 903-649-4615 to sign up as a helper or contribute a dish or donation. Some assistance materializes on the day: “We never how many will show up and volunteer. I don’t have a number because it changes every year.
“Since we started, I always say, ‘Lord, you fed the multitudes with a few fish and a loaf of bread – surely you can help me out here. Then we just go, and we keep cooking until they stop coming.”