More than 925 served at multifaith Thanksgiving meal in Linton
Last Thursday, some gave thanks for the food, and others for the company.
Still, regardless of the reasons why nearly a thousand county residents participated, Greene County's numbers for Thursday's multifaith Thanksgiving dinner were even more impressive than expected.
With 250 volunteers and 950 served, the Thanksgiving meal, at Linton's First Christian Church, was a multifaith charity effort organized around the member churches of the Linton Community Food Pantry.
Begun around 1996 as the brainchild of church members Brad and Kelly Zimmerly, the effort's happily grown far beyond the couple's expectations.
"We had 250 volunteers total between set-up, food preparation, delivery and cooking, involving kids and adults alike," Kelly Zimmerly said. "Probably our youngest that was helping was 8 years old, and I can't even begin to guess how old our oldest volunteer is, probably close to 80."
While volunteers expected to serve up dinner for 850, they wound up with a hundred more people than predicted.
"The number of volunteers was up from last year, as was the number of people coming in and having meals delivered," Kelly Zimmerly said.
With statistics available for 915 of those meals, organizers offered around 565 delivered meals and 225 carryout dinners.
"We delivered to the whole county," said Mike Roth, who co-pastors Linton's Saron United Church of Christ with his wife Erica and who worked the entire day at the dinner. "We were based in Linton, but we delivered to the whole county, Dugger, and even some of the northern parts of Sullivan County."
At the church, 125 had dinner, while where the remaining 35 ate was uncertain from statistics.
For perspective on how big the massive meal actually was, 39 out of 40 turkeys were carved, and 14 whole hams out of 20 were eaten.
About 26 bags of potatoes were served up mashed, leaving two bags.
A dozen gallons of sweetened tea and six more gallons of unsweetened were drunk.
The dinner served up 106 pumpkin pies and 18 other desserts, and 35 gallons of green beans were consumed.
Leftovers won't be carved up into turkey sandwiches nor ground into turkey salad, either. What remains uncooked heads back to the freezers and spare canned goods are shelved, to be cooked up and dispensed during Christmas charity dinners.
What can't be measured in numbers, however, is the effect the community dinner has on the lonely - those without family, or suffering a recent loss.
"You can have all the money in the world, and still be alone," said Roth.
The pastor saw the good the Thanksgiving dinner could do for those left lonely on a holiday.
Roth recalls one woman whose last-minute reservation of a delivered dinner might have brought a bit of cheer to an otherwise sad holiday.
She'd lost her husband just the night before.
Sitting there in her apartment Thanksgiving morning, she remembered the church dinner and called in, requesting someone stop by.
"It's not just for those who can't afford it, but about loneliness," Roth said.
"Statistics suggest that a quarter of all the people in this county will spend a holiday alone."
Nor does the dinner serve only the needy or the lonely. For travelers, it can also serve as a godsend.
"We had a guy come in who was working in Edwardsport at the power plant. He was staying in one of the local motels - Allen's, I think - and he had the day off, but he had to work the day before and the day after," Roth recalls.
The worker came to the Thanksgiving dinner, staying for about two hours of fellowship.
"He came over, ate, stayed a while and left a nice donation," Roth recalled.
That fellowship, and the means to make people feel less alone, was a key reason why the Zimmerlys founded the dinner, Kelly Zimmerly said.
"When we first started this close to 15 years ago, our intent was not just for those in need from a financial standpoint, but also those situations where somebody has lost family and for those who don't have family nearby," she said. "We wanted them to have good times, food and fellowship"
For that, a community's thankful.