As a line formed for food even after an hour into the service at ADM High School, a conversation sparked about how many years the community Thanksgiving dinner has been going on.
One guest remembered coming in with his dad over 15 years ago. But you have to add another 15 years on top of that to get to the beginning of the tradition now that the service has reached its 30th annual free meal.
Held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 28, the dinner served over 400 meals in the school cafeteria with the help of over 30 volunteers. Another 100 meals were sent out for delivery to people that could not attend the meal in-person.
Now in his third year as the event organizer, Tim Canney said the show’s been running smoothly after he initially took over when there was a threat of the tradition coming to a close.
“There’s some folks that don’t have a place to go and so there’s typically always someone at my house who doesn’t have a place to go, so it’s kind of an extension of that,” Canney said. “This is a community thing and this is much more than that though. It becomes just a fun community event where your neighbors are here and you get to talk to people that you maybe don’t see all the time.”
While Canney helped keep the show rolling in the front, Marcella Berry was in the back leading the kitchen as dozens of families rolled in for the afternoon. She stepped into the role three years ago when there “were prospects the kitchen could shut down” after the previous leader retired, the same year Canney took charge.
“I come out here because I know the community and I know there are a lot of people that don’t have anywhere to go. For a lot of these guys coming in here to eat or for our deliveries, we might be the only face they see today,” Berry said.
Food donations were provided by local businesses and churches.
Along with a group of volunteers, Berry had the help of Boy Scouts group 152. The group has been helping the kitchen for six years as part of its community outreach.
Rotating shifts throughout the afternoon, Scouts greeted guests with an open door, helped them to their seats, re-filled drinks and bussed tables to keep the day running smoothly.
“It’s important [for everybody] to celebrate Thanksgiving, and if we can help a group that’s putting a meal on the table for other people in the community, it’s a great thing to do,” group co-leader Mike Yanacheak said.