For three hours Thursday, hundreds of people gathered inside the St. Joseph Parish Life Center for fellowship and traditional Thanksgiving Day fare.
This Thanksgiving Day, approximately 350 people took advantage of spending Thanksgiving Day together at the downtown Wapakoneta Catholic church — fulfilling the goal of the meal which is a community fellowship opportunity for area residents regardless of social status or income.
“I think the event is growing because the community is finding out more about it,” Wapakoneta Community Thanksgiving Committee Chair Larry James said. “I hope we have gotten rid of the stigma this is for the poor people because it is for the community.
“The first few years people thought they were volunteering to help the poor, and now they are finding out they are helping each other,” he said. “They are finding out we are helping each other.”
The meal is served for two hours before the crew will also fill take-out orders. At the end of the day, volunteers take meals to the Wapakoneta Fire Department, Wapakoneta Police Department and the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office for the staff working on the holiday.
This year, James said they did not have the big rush of people they typically see at the beginning, but they had a steady flow of people for all three hours. The event starts at 11 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m.
“It was so steady that it almost was like a constant line,” James said. “We don’t have the carryout until 1 p.m. because I want to make sure there is food for those people who want to come in and sit down. The meal was designed to enjoy here with families and each other and not to be taken out.”
On Thursday, they counted 365 meals served below the number of 450 served in 2011.
For the 8th consecutive year, the Wapakoneta Community Thanksgiving Committee, which is comprised of church members and individuals from service organizations, start to organize the one-day affair in August. A number of local businesses donate money for food or items, such as linens or stryofoam.
This year, James said they were training new people in the kitchen to take over cooking the meal and keeping the food items hot and ready to serve.
Denise Olberding, who was in charge of volunteers, said more than 100 people volunteered at the Parish Life Center to serve people and clean-up.
“We encourage the volunteers to sit down with people, maybe with a single person or a couple of people, and let them talk to them,” James said. “We have enough volunteers to get the work done so we encourage the fellowship — that is what this all about fellowship.”