Virginia, there’s lots of people to be thankful for this year

November 24, 2021 12:02 am

Volunteer Karen Cuffee stirs gravy on the stove at the Buffalow Family and Friends pantry-kitchen in Chesapeake on Sunday, in preparation for Thanksgiving. The nonprofit organization expects to serve 2,000 meals this week. (Roger Chesley/ For the Virginia Mercury)

Delena Buffalow took a gander at the two turkeys in the tub before her. She seized them by the drumsticks and gave them a sanitizing dip in vinegar and water. 

Buffalow said Sunday she’d also rinse the generous-sized gobblers in this pantry-kitchen. The building, in a Chesapeake shopping center, forms the base of operations for Thanksgiving dinners for people seeking sustenance in her community. 

“We’ll do 50 turkeys this year,” she said, barely pausing to chat with me. No offense taken, though: Buffalow, her adult daughter, Nischelle, and a whole bunch of volunteers were assembling the 12th annual holiday meal, and the nonprofit organization known as the Buffalow Family and Friends has a well-honed system to feed the masses. 

After all, the family and volunteers will probably serve 2,000 meals this year; only 25 people attended the first event in 2010. Getting everything ready means starting days in advance prepping desserts, rolls and other fixings. 

The Buffalows are among those I’m recognizing this Thanksgiving, for all they do to make this commonwealth a better place. Many are like this group from Chesapeake: They saw a need, they strategized, and they plunged ahead to aid their neighbors – friends and strangers alike.


The Thanksgiving dinner used to be a sit-down affair. During the pandemic, though, the Buffalows and their supporters will deliver meals or provide drive-up service for folks who might otherwise go without. Military veterans and senior citizens are among the beneficiaries. 

The organization has expanded to hold several events throughout the year, including back-to-school drives, senior lunches and a mobile pantry. 

On Sunday, one volunteer, owner of a local upholstery business, stirred gravy on the stove. Others, including a City Council member, divvied up sheet cakes into small containers. 

“We enjoy doing it,” Nischelle Buffalow told me. “We’re all servants.”

The family has plenty of competition in Virginia, in case you’re wondering:

Roanoke City Public Schools installed washers and dryers in schools that its homeless students could use. The machines allow the children to get clean clothes, avoid embarrassment and have one fewer thing to worry about as their families seek permanent housing.

Talk about the “Aww” factor: A teenager thought his sewing skills and love of bow ties could help dogs and cats in shelters nudge would-be owners into adoption. Darius Brown, of Newark, N.J., has dropped off hundreds of bow ties in several states, including Virginia, The Washington Post reported

I’m a pooch person myself, and some of the photos of the newly snazzy pets are just adorable. After viewing them, you might be inspired to run out and add a family member. Want to learn more? Check out Darius’ Facebook page titled “Beaux and Paws.” It has 10,000 followers. 

A church rector in the Ashburn area was miffed when someone stole his mountain bike in late 2020. Then, Robbie Pruitt figured that maybe someone swiped it because bikes had been in short supply during the pandemic. (That’s the charitable way of looking at it, I suppose, befitting a religious person.) 

Anyway, Pruitt began fixing up damaged bikes and giving them away – for free. He called it a “mechanical ministry” operating right in his own backyard. He also took in discarded, unwanted bikes. Children in the neighborhood got in the act, too, helping him repair the two-wheelers. He told me, by a Facebook message this week, that he and fellow volunteers have now repaired more than 850 bikes in a year. That’s truly transforming a bad act into something great.

Church, Part 2: Grove Church in Portsmouth thought everyone coping during the pandemic could use a boost – especially a petrol-fueled one. So it sponsored a free gas giveaway at a local Exxon this spring, no questions asked, with the church spending up to $10,000. Each participant could get up to $25 worth of gas.

Berlyn Best, the church’s marketing director, told me Melvin O. Marriner, senior pastor, went into his own pocket after the advertised amount was depleted, so even more folks could gas up. I’m sure the recipients appreciated the gesture.

Thank goodness a couple of bystanders rushed to the aid of a Fredericksburg police officer under duress. They intervened in July after seeing a suspect punch the officer, and they pulled the man off the cop. The alleged puncher, Joshua J. Duggins, was charged with assault on a law-enforcement officer and malicious wounding. The officer was treated for head injuries and released from a hospital.

“If the two individuals watching nearby had not selflessly taken it upon themselves to assist the officer, the injuries he sustained could have been much worse,” said Police Chief Brian Layton, according to the Free Lance-Star. “I can’t thank them enough for bravely putting themselves in danger.”

Michael Mason had retired from the FBI, and at one point he was the fourth-highest ranking official on the organization chart. He had been the executive assistant director. 

Yet, Mason thought he could still be of service — even if the position was decidedly less high-profile and intensely local. When Chesterfield County sought school bus drivers, Mason raised his hand and signed on. “I’ve done some important things, but guess what? This is important too,” he said. The school division even featured Mason in a YouTube video. 

The people and initiatives I mentioned inspired me over the year, making me smile or warming my heart. I bet you could create a similar list of gratitude. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you. 

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Roger Chesley
Roger Chesley

Longtime columnist and editorial writer Roger Chesley worked at the (Newport News) Daily Press and The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot from 1997 through 2018. He previously worked at newspapers in Cherry Hill, N.J., and Detroit. Reach him at [email protected]