More than 800 Thanksgiving meals with all the trimmings were provided for people in Hamilton and Middletown who may not have had the means or a place to share in a holiday meal.
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hamilton, and Breiel Boulevard Church of God in Middletown, and their many partners and volunteers, prepared a holiday feast on Thursday for hundreds in their communities. The event also drew some people to come and volunteer their time as a way of giving thanks for the blessings they’ve received.
At Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Julia Hilbert said about 20 were already lined up outside the door before the noon start of the Hamilton community dinner, prompting an earlier start.
By 2 p.m., volunteers had already fed more than 200 people. Those who came received hats, gloves and scarves for the upcoming winter season. As people ate their turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans and dessert, a magician performed some magic tricks.
Hilbert said it was the third year for the church to host the dinner which was supported by a number of other churches in the community, businesses such as Kroger, Klosterman’s and Wendy’s and community organizations such as the Salvation Army and the Community Meal Center. She said they plan to serve about 300 meals each year.
This year, Hilbert said the cooking started Tuesday through Wednesday and volunteers showed up at 8 a.m. Thursday to get things ready for dinner. “It’s all good,” she said.
Joe Schrock, the church’s pastor, said some volunteers bring their entire families to volunteer to serve the meal before their own holiday meal. He also said those who attended the Thanksgiving meal are a mix of people who come to weekly meals the church provides on Tuesdays. Several Hamilton churches take a turn for a day of the week to provide a meal for the needy, he said.
“Our congregation has a huge hunger ministry,” he said. “For me and the congregation, in these times of division, this is an opportunity for us to build community by getting people to work together. This meal brings a cross-section of the community together and helps to unite it.”
Schrock said this is a place for people who have no where else to go to get a real meal and a little bit of family atmosphere.
Jeanine and Dave DuBois of Hamilton have been to the church’s Thanksgiving dinner for the past three years.
“It’s a real good dinner,” Jeanine DuBois said as she ate her meal, adding that the turkey this year was much better than the turkey roll they had last year.”
She said, “the friendly people and environment makes it really special.”
Dave DuBois agreed the meal was really good and that the church was “nice, friendly place.”
He said the stuffing was the best part of the meal.
Robin Gurwitch of Durham, N.C. said she was working at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center this week and was looking for a place to volunteer on Thanksgiving.
“I feel like I need to give back and this seemed to be a place for giving back to the community,” she said. “It’s a way to be thankful for what I have and to help others who may not have as much.”
She helped out by picking up the empty plates and passing out pies and other desserts.
Over in Middletown, Jeri Lewis at Breiel Boulevard Church of God, said more than 300 meals were served by 3 p.m. and another 150 carry-out meals would be delivered to elderly and others who could get to the church.
Lewis said this is the fifth year she has organized the community Thanksgiving dinner. She said Breiel, Berachah Church and Christ Church sponsor the dinner that continues to grow each year. Transportation isn’t a problem as she has volunteers use buses and vans from other churches to bring people to the dinner, she said.
Lewis said cooking the dinner began on Wednesday and people were finishing up the preparations starting at 8 a.m. Thursday.
The Middletown dinner also had people who had no where to go for the holiday meal also arriving before the doors opened up.
Lewis said she also sees the same volunteers come back to help each year and who bring family members as a tradition. Some of the homeless stay after the dinner to help with clean-up.
“I love everybody coming here,” Lewis said. “But visiting the shut-ins is becoming one of my favorite things. It’s so personal when they invite you into their home.”
People who come to the dinner are given hats, scarves and other clothing.
“This is the embodiment of love,” Lewis said. “When Scripture talks about love, this is it in one event.”