Community and church came together at Otterbein United Methodist Church as the congregation offered its annual Thanksgiving dinner.
By noon on Thanksgiving Day, 200 meals had been served at the church at 647 Forge Road, South Middleton Township.
Church member Heather Housel is one of the many volunteers who have participated in the dinner in each of its eight years.
“We have plenty of volunteers. We are blessed with volunteers last night and today,” she said.
Housel never counted the number, but estimated that about 30 volunteers had been at the church Wednesday night to help prepare for the meal and set up. She estimated another 40 people assisted with serving the meal on Thursday.
“The other blessing is that all of our families are here together,” she said.
Her son, for example, had started helping when they started offering the meal eight years ago, and he was again on the line on Thanksgiving Day.
Volunteers said the meal is a community meal offered to all. Visitors may be in need but they don’t have to be. Likewise, they may have somewhere else to go, or they may not. The meal is open to all.
On Wednesday, Dan and Justine Monken were among the volunteers helping to set up the meal, as they have done in the past. Usually, Dan said, the couple would help with the meal and then go home and have family coming to visit through the rest of the holiday weekend.
This year, their son is in Japan where he was worked for 17 years, and their daughter had moved to Iowa.
“We’re by ourselves this Thanksgiving. This is the first time we’ve been by ourselves in 42 years of marriage,” Dan said.
But, family wasn’t too far away as they were able to Skype with their son in Japan even as they were helping to set up for the dinner.
Volunteer firefighters from Company 36 brought the fire truck to the church to have their dinner, while emergency services personnel from the county emergency communications center, North Middleton Police, Dickinson College Public Safety, Carlisle Police, State Police at Carlisle and a number of shut-ins had meals delivered to them.
This year, more than 70 meals were delivered, which is a far cry from the first year when a single take-out meal was requested.
“It’s just a church effort, and it’s just a great thing to be able to give back to the community,” Dan Monken said.