SERVING OTHERS: Community Thanksgiving meal offered for eighth year with help of volunteers
Photo Submitted A volunteer at the 2011 Community Thanksgiving carries a load of food, which he will deliver to others who cannot make the trip to the church. (November 21, 2012)
A group of volunteers from area churches and organizations has been striving to change that.
The eighth annual serving of the meal to the community will be 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at Lexington Avenue Baptist Church.
The brainchild of two friends, Doris Cessna and MaryAnn Teater, the Community Thanksgiving began with the help of their respective churches, Lexington Avenue Baptist and Calvary Baptist, after the two women felt led to use their Thanksgiving to serve others. After talking about it, according to Teater, Cessna said, “we could do that here,” and the idea was born.
They began talking with others in their churches and contacting community organizations, such as the Salvation Army, to find families and individuals who they could serve. The need became more evident, but luckily, the volunteer list grew, too.
Now, eight years later, they anticipate the meal will feed more than 300. From those who may not be able to afford a good Thanksgiving meal, to those who might otherwise be eating alone, anyone is invited to attend. In fact, they are encouraged to stop by, just for the fellowship.
“This is not necessarily for those that need food, but also for those that are alone that day. They don’t have to stay home alone; they can come eat with us,” Cessna said, and Teater agreed. Both women believe the fellowship that is offered when you are able to share the Thanksgiving holiday with others is a big part of the event.
That also is why they get so excited at the sight of all the volunteers who arrive to help, as an event like this requires more than a few people to pull off.
“I’m just a small fraction of it; there’s absolutely no way that it could happen without all the people involved,” Cessna said. She speculated there were about 53 workers from 11 churches and community groups serving last year. Calvary Baptist, Lexington Avenue Baptist and Southland Christian churches all donate food items for the day.
“It’s just awesome. We have so many wonderful people who come to help,” Teater said.
“We couldn’t do it without all the volunteers.” One of those volunteers has agreed to cook five of the turkeys before the event. The rest will be cooked today. Teater anticipates more than 10 will be consumed before Thursday is over.
For those who choose to volunteer, there are a variety of jobs, all important, from carrying food trays, to serving the food, to washing dishes, to cleaning afterward. They may come in shifts, with some people only working a few hours. They also will have volunteers who deliver food to individuals in the county who cannot leave their homes. Every bit of that work counts and can be enjoyable, according to Teater.
“Even washing dishes can be fun when you are in a group like that; fun-loving people who have a servant’s heart,” she said.
The two friends especially love how the volunteers come from all areas of the community and beyond. Teater said she gets so excited seeing “churches rally together in service” to their community.
“The good part is the community is coming together to work” for others, said Cessna.
She anticipated that the volunteers with the most travel time will be a family coming from Boston. According to Cessna, the daughter is a Centre freshman, and the family wants to find a way to get involved in the community while they are visiting over the holiday weekend.