Saturday, October 27th, 2007
By Janie Southard
Lack of volunteers cancels Celina's Thanksgiving meal
Montezuma and St. Marys will serve turkey, trimmings
  Area volunteers are well into preparations for two Giving Thanks community dinners but there will be no such dinner in Celina this year.
Celina co-chair Carol Burnett said she had only nine volunteers to head up the 19 committees necessary to put the meal on the table. "We've been trying to get people since August with pleas on the radio and in the newspaper; and we've had a lot of calls from people wanting to help out that day, but no one wanted to take on a committee," she told the newspaper last week.
Burnett is hoping a service group will take over the event that last year served more than 800 people including shut-ins.
"One of our drivers said an elderly lady had asked her to divide the meal into four portions because that's all she had to eat. The driver (Burnett's daughter) came back and reported she'd given the woman all the dinners in the car, which is exactly what'd we want done," Burnett said.
The Celina co-chair said it's truly sad the dinner will not be held this year. "My husband and I have been with it seven years and have been truly blessed. I guess I'd say it's on hold now. Hopefully someone will come forward next summer willing to take it on," she said, adding she and her husband will be working at the Montezuma location.
In Montezuma, a community Thanksgiving feast was first held about 15 years ago and in 2003 it came under the Giving Thanks umbrella.
Created by 15 local families, the original Giving Thanks in Celina was held in 1999 at Celina High School and served almost 300 people. The next year St. Marys residents formed their own group.
One of Celina's first co-chairs, Phil Cozadd, said in a Nov. 22, 1999, Daily Standard article that the fledgling group had raised $3,000 to fund the dinner, which was double the original financial goal.
He said the meal is for anyone in the county who wants to mingle with others and is absolutely not just for those in financial need.
Tagging the holiday meal a time for fellowship and enjoying the spirit of giving thanks caught on area-wide and attendance to the free gathering increased significantly every year.
Serving more than 1500 in last year's three locations, there are still those who insist on making a donation.
"We don't encourage anyone to give money but if they wish to, we simply give them an envelope ... We have a couple families whose children come home for the holidays and the whole group come to Giving Thanks. But they say they'll stop coming if they can't pay something," said Pam Elking, a co-chair of the St. Marys event.
St. Marys volunteers have had to relocate their dinner.
Because of planned renovations to the church, Wayne Street United Methodist will not be available this year for the St. Marys dinner.
"We talked about just skipping it this year, but everyone agreed we should at least try to find another spot," Elking said.
They did find another location, the American Legion on state Route 703, across from the state park, and will serve from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
With Celina closed, both St. Marys and Montezuma are roasting more turkeys and tossing extra potatoes in the pot in anticipation of a bigger crowd for dinner.
Right now, St. Marys is preparing for 800, nearly doubling last year's 550 meals served, and may up that number a little, Elking said. Montezuma co-chair Sue Heiser said her group is cooking for 500.
The Montezuma community dinner was begun 11 years ago by the ladies of the Montezuma United Methodist Church, where they served 78 folks in 2003. "When we joined with Giving Thanks, we moved the dinner to Franklin school and last year served 278 dinners," Heiser said in a telephone interview.
Volunteers are always appreciated and are sometimes even recruited on the spot.
Heiser said a very large family attended last year because they wanted more time to visit with each other and friends. At the end of the meal, some of the children got up and began clearing the table.
"Then they helped clean other tables and seemed to get a good feeling for doing something for someone else," Heiser said, adding that no one has to eat alone. "We'll seat you with someone else or just sit down and chat with you ourselves. That's the whole point of Giving Thanks. It's a fellowship time for everyone."
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