ST. PETERSBURG – Lillie Lawrence was thankful this Thanksgiving for being able to do what she loves most—cooking. She prepared a soul food Thanksgiving dinner complete with collard greens, macaroni and cheese, black eyed peas, corn, stuffing, and of course, turkey for 40 lucky residents living in the Arlington Arbor housing community in downtown St. Pete.
A resident since 2004, Lawrence cooks every year for her friends and neighbors with help from her daughters. Being confined to a wheelchair doesn’t stop this 83 year old from bringing joy to the senior residents, some who are not well enough to leave their apartments.
Jenny and Ron Griffis were two residents who enjoyed gorging themselves last Thursday. Originally from Ohio, this Thanksgiving could have been a sad one if not from Lawrence.
“This was the first year away from our family and she shared her family with us,” Jenny said choking back the tears. “We had a good time.”
No stranger to cooking large Thanksgiving dinners, Lawrence found a picture of a Thanksgiving meal she cooked back in the 1980s where Judge James Sanderlin, the first black judge in Pinellas County, her best friend Cleveland Johnson, Jr., founder of The Weekly Challenger newspaper, and a slew of lawyers and doctors all at her home enjoying her cooking.
Lawrence was a high roller in her day. She worked for the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services for 27 years, owned a hopping dress shop downtown and helped put on fashion shows throughout the 1970s and 80s. Now she is content with cooking for friends and family and reminiscing about the good ol’ days.