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November 27, 2003
Giving Back his Thanks

by Joyce Shelby
James McCorkle isn't exactly sure how many folks to expect for dinner today, but he's prepared:

"Twenty-five turkeys, 200 pounds of fresh collard greens, 150 pounds of yams and five cases of cranberry sauce," said McCorkle, a kitchen supervisor for the Doe Fund.

There also will be stuffing, macaroni and cheese, fresh fruits and lots of desserts - enough to take care of everyone who drops by for the annual Thanksgiving Day open house at the Doe Fund's Gates Ave. facility in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

"Some of our guests are fortunate; some are less fortunate. Some just didn't have enough money to afford a dinner. Some don't have homes," said McCorkle, who identifies closely with the people he and other Doe Fund staffers will serve today.

Now 37, McCorkle was homeless himself for many years because of substance abuse that began at age 13.

"It started with drinking and smoking, and progressed to pill-popping, sniffing cocaine and then smoking crack cocaine," McCorkle said. Ultimately, he said, the Salvation Army took him in.

"I got it back together by the grace of God. I take no credit," McCorkle said. "God made a way."

McCorkle entered the Doe Fund's "Ready, Willing and Able" program last year. Founded by George McDonald, the Doe Fund offers participants jobs and housing, as well as aid in finding permanent homes and work.

"This is the first year I'll be in my own home for the holidays," McCorkle said. "That's reason enough to give thanks."

He plans to spend today cooking, serving and encouraging those who are facing hard times, as he once did.

All over the borough, Brooklynites will be serving the needy as part of the traditional celebration of Thanksgiving.

And some residents will be in Prospect Park running for a good cause. At 9 a.m., the Prospect Park Track Club will host a 5-mile Turkey Trot Run/Walk to benefit the Bishop Ford High School track teams.

Runners, joggers and walkers of all abilities are invited to enter the race. Registration will take place at the Oriental Pavilion, near the Lincoln Road entrance to the park, beginning at 8 a.m. The entry fee is $20.

Tomorrow and Saturday, visitors to Historic Richmond Town on Staten Island can learn about early American food traditions, including how to make turkey, potatoes and pumpkin pie on an open hearth. Hours are 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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