For 15 years, families, individuals, children and seniors have been coming together at the open invitation of Ambassador Bismarck Myrick and his wife Mrs. Marie Pierre Myrick to share a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner.
For some, the extended family setting experience is new; for others, they return annually with fond memories of past Thanksgivings.
What began 15 years ago in the hall of the Jeffery Wilson housing complex now has expanded to fill the floor of the Neighborhood Facility on Elm Street. Ambassador Myrick originated the idea back then as a way to give back to the community of Portsmouth where he was born and educated.
The Portsmouth native is a retired United States diplomat and among other assignments served as an expert on national strategic policies and U.S. Ambassador to Liberia and the Kingdom of Lesotho as well as Consul General in Durban, South Africa and Cape Town, South Africa. In addition, he is a highly decorated (including Silver Star and Purple Heart) U.S. Army combat hero. He also is an Old Dominion University’s Ambassador in Residence and Lecturer of Political Science and History.
He and Mrs. Myrick, a native of Senegal, serve annually as capable hosts who ensure that everyone feels welcome. A large committee of volunteers assists in preparations for the day’s activities and are on site to make sure everything goes as planned.
Each year’s program features a keynote inspirational speaker who brings a short message of community and thanksgiving. This year’s speaker was Capt. (USN) Nancy Wilson, a nurse at the Naval Medical Center in Norfolk and Fort Story and one of only 13 African American nurses to attain her rank in the U.S. Navy. She spoke briefly on the value of respect for self and others, family and the need to maintain a spiritual connection.
The traditional Thanksgiving meal was catered by acclaimed Chef Gene Breckenridge of St. Mark’s Edmonds’ Center and included ample portions for everyone. Other speakers, entertainment, songs, and raffles were part of the day’s activities. The event closed out with the presentation of gifts by Ambassador Myrick to attending senior citizens and young children.
Persons on the program included Doris Copeland as M.C., assisted by Josh Francis; Peyton Bryant; Byron Joyce; Velvet Smith; Rev. Andrew Chapman; Gary Gooding, Jr.; Rev. Vernon Dudley; Wesley Todd Myrick and Lamar Elliott. Entertainment was provided by Leatha Ballard, who performed as a mime; and Siren Productions which played music.
Dr. Jaclyn Walker served as the committee chairperson.