Ella Wilkerson and father, Brian, decorate cookies to be included in Thanksgiving meals as part of Companion Cuisine at Monroe High School cafeteria on Thursday. LAUREN PACK/STAFF

Butler County gives thanks by sharing with others

Monroe High School cafeteria was packed Thursday morning with hundreds of volunteers putting personal touches on meals for delivery to those in need as part of Companion Cuisine.

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The effort began in 2015, to honor the memory of Joann Centers, mother of Monroe Fire Chief John Centers, who always made sure her elderly and less fortunate neighbors had a meal on Thanksgiving.

That first year 130 meals were served. The number has grown to 536 this year.

The dinners of turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables, pumpkin pie, rolls and decorated cookies, are delivered in personalized bags decorated with by artistic volunteers of all ages. And the cookies also got a loving, homemade touch from volunteer decorators.

Ella Wilkerson was in charge of sprinkles as her father, Brian, iced sugar cookies. And she was pretty serious about the job at hand, applying gold decorations very precisely.

“You are doing a great job. Try to fill up a whole try,” another volunteer urged the father and daughter on.

The Diver family, Jamee and Aaron and children Cooper and Reese, stopped by for a third year to help with preparation and delivery. They were coloring bags marked with addresses and if the recipient had a pet that would also get a special meal and treats thanks to Catnip & Carrots Animal Bunch.

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Patrick and Cathy McCausland were brushing up on the coloring skills while bag decorating.

“We heard about it and wanted to help out. We are home, we are available and we wanted to help out the community. It really is great to see everyone come together.”

John Centers said the meals will be delivered to folks in Monore, Middletown, Franklin, Hamilton and Trenton.

“It is almost overwhelming the turnout we get; it really is great to see,” he said.

This year the volunteers got a special visit from Trooper, the famous Butler County dog who survived being hit by a train.

He was full of the holiday spirit with barks of encouragement and happy to pose for photos.

Hundreds were on hand for a fest of a dinner at the 8th Annual Middletown Community Thanksgiving organized by Jerri Lewis director of community development at Kingswell Ministries.

The dinner, held at Breiel Church, was open to anyone who needed a place to come and a meal. And people attended from all walks of life.

“That’s what we think community is,” Lewis said. Volunteers served up heaping helpings at the church and deliveries were also made to shut-ins. Rides were also available from volunteers

“I even yelled at people walking on the street who looked like they could use a meal to get in, and they did,” Lewis said with a smile.

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