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Stephens joins community in remembering Almeta Crayton

October 22, 2013

The Stephens College community joins Columbia in mourning the loss of Almeta Crayton, a former First Ward councilwoman who hosted a popular public dinner at Stephens every Thanksgiving.

“Everybody Eats” began 16 years ago at a local restaurant before relocating to Stamper Commons on the Stephens campus.

Crayton’s annual goal was to “feed as many people on Thanksgiving as she possibly could,” Stephens President Dianne Lynch said. “We worked together to make that as convenient and flexible as possible—for both the people Everybody Eats served, and for the people who volunteered their time to make it happen.”

Tony Coleman, director of Campus Security at Stephens, was among those volunteers. For the past several years, he’s spent part of his holiday lending a hand.

“Year after year she would be just as excited as the previous year about the event and amazed at the outpouring of help and support for the event,” he said.

Coleman joked that he always seemed to be the one around when someone was having difficulty working appliances.

“One year it was the ovens,” he recalled. “Almeta would just pat me on the back and say with a smile ‘I know you will show them how to work this.’ (I knew nothing about the ovens.) Another year it was the dishwasher and with that same smile: ‘I know you will show them how to work this.’ (I knew nothing about the dishwasher.)  But we always figured out how to show everyone how to work things and the Thanksgiving days went the same as they always did…..with Almeta seated somewhere in the dining area, a line of people wishing her well and saying ‘thank you’ and, of course, everyone  eating.”

Although one of her better-known projects, Everybody Eats was just one way Crayton contributed to the community. She also hosted a community breakfast on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and served the First Ward on the Columbia City Council.

“Almeta always just did whatever needed to be done,” Lynch said. “That sounds simple or easy, but it was neither: She recognized that our community needed to be fed, and she figured out how to bring people together to get it done. She believed that the City Council needed a voice and a perspective that it didn’t have, and she stepped up and worked tirelessly to get elected and to be that voice. She was an activist who dedicated her life to equal opportunity and social justice—and our community is a far better place as a result.”

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