Kindness in abundance at Thanksgiving time

Published 9:15 am Wednesday, November 25, 2009

FRANKLIN—Instead of sitting back and relaxing during his Thanksgiving break from college, Darnell Lee Jr. got to work helping his community.

On Saturday, Lee came home from Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., where he is a junior, to hand out turkeys to needy families in the area.

“I wanted to give back to the community that has given me so much,” the 20-year-old said.

Lee, who graduated from Southampton High School in 2007, is in the process of starting his own foundation geared toward public service.

He said he was brainstorming ideas for the foundation with his father, Darnell Lee Sr., in August.

“We were talking about the people who need stuff around Thanksgiving and Christmas,” he said. “We started getting donations this month.”

Lee’s original goal was to give out 100 donated turkeys. He asked teachers at the local high schools, as well as area churches, to give him names of possible recipients.

By Saturday, he had 50 turkeys to distribute and was proud of the effort.

Friends Aaron Darden, James Nicholas, Henry “Bump” Olds, Alvin Lee Jr. and Alvin Lee Sr., David Jenkins as well as Larry Rose and the Lamda Nu Chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity donated. Lee and volunteers set up at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Franklin to give away the turkeys, a few of which Lee bought with his own money.

“Some people don’t eat and need this,” Lee said after giving a large bird to a man and his daughter. “They don’t have as much.”

Lee Sr. said his son has always been a giving person.

“He’s been around people who didn’t have what he had, and he wanted to share,” he said.

Lee said his parents, both of whom work at International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill, are role models.

“They set good examples about how to care about people,” he said. “It’s not always about you. They taught me how to respect people, no matter what they have or don’t have.”

Mother Kim Walker-Lee is proud of her son.

“It’s kind of exciting and amazing that he wants to start his own foundation,” she said.

Lee’s college roommate, Anthony Turner from Henderson, N.C., came along Saturday to help out hand out turkeys.

“I’m thinking about doing this in my hometown next year,” Turner said.

“I think it’s a nice program,” said Franklin resident Reshirmar Smith after picking up her turkey. “It really means a lot. It helps me out, and I appreciate it.”