A City Celebrates Thanksgiving

Every year for decades now, my hometown has celebrated Thanksgiving Day with a city-wide community dinner. Over a hundred people volunteer for all the preparation, serving, and clean-up work, which takes weeks. Hundreds of citizens from our own town and from several surrounding communities converge on our civic center that day and celebrate together, expressing gratitude for each other and for all of the blessings we’ve experienced during the year.

We generally have a continental breakfast for those who like to start early. We have a big dinner with all the traditional Thanksgiving elements from 11:00-2:00. That dinner period includes easy-listening and Christmas music by one of our favorite local singers, and many people get up and dance. There are big screen TV’s for watching football and/or movies, and there are numerous board/table games (and games for kids) for anyone who wants to spend the day. Then about 5:00 the left-overs from dinner — as well as some extras like pizza and finger foods — get set out for supper.

Volunteers deliver mid-day dinners to anyone who is home bound and cannot get to the civic center to participate, and to local police officers, fire-fighters, and store clerks who have to work that day. When all is finished, any left-over food goes to local nursing homes.

All of the food (including over 1300 pounds of turkey), supplies, decorations, and equipment are donated by local businesses, churches, civic groups, and individuals, and every year more people want to be involved. The coordinator of the dinner, who is a dear friend of mine, is licensed in food preparation and safety, and he takes his responsibility very seriously.

For several years I covered the event for the local newspaper. Some years I interviewed as many as 40 and 50 people, many of whom had some wonderful stories to tell about how much the event means to them. It’s a community treasure, and in an age when so much is done in this world out of selfishness and greed, I’m proud of my community for still focusing it’s time, energy, and resources on appreciating the value of community and togetherness.

The short video below shares just a very few photos of the fun involved.

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Healing Holiday

Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner,
And I am set to have a lovely time.
First I’ll make a jaunt to church and, kneeling down,
I’ll thank the Lord for all His blessings kind.

And then I’ll journey farther to meet kith and kin.
We’ll hug and laugh and tell each other news.
Then next I’ll help dish up the yummy treats in store;
So many dishes, all from which to choose.

Then after eating more than I could ever need,
And going back again for one more pinch,
I’ll sit by fireplace warm and cuddle little ones,
And soon we’ll be asleep; it is a cinch.

Oh, my, how dear Thanksgiving is to all of us.
It gives us one whole day when we can part
From all that pulls and presses us and wounds us sore,
And give ourselves to healing, loving hearts.

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If you enjoy Thanksgiving poems, you may also enjoy these from previous years:

“Ah, Thanksgiving, How I Love You!
“What’s For Dinner”
“A Lesson In Thanksgiving”

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Jake Sprinter’s Sunday Challenge: City

I certainly agree with the definition of a city as it’s explained on Jake’s site. But I sometimes look at cities — and nations — from another perspective.  I like to concentrate on the ‘heart’ of a city — and that’s its people. So this week, I’m taking Jake’s challenge in that direction and offering a slide show that tells the story of the heart of my city: Herrin, Illinois, U. S. A.

Herrin is a small city, a little over 100 years old.  We have a population of a little under 12,000,  made up of people whose roots can be found in nations all around the world. Even though we are small, we are very aware of the diverse cultures inherent in our citizens, and we embrace that cultural variety with honor and affection

One of the most significant events in which we interact takes place every year on Thanksgiving Day. The city of Herrin has a huge community Thanksgiving Dinner — free to everyone who would like to participate — at our city civic center.  It is not a meal prepared only for poor or indigent people — although most assuredly they are welcomed and appreciated. But this meal is for the entire citizenry of the city — as well as any surrounding neighbors who would like to be involved. (And there are usually scores of those as well.)

A small group of about three people take the responsibility of organizing the event and bringing all the various organizations and individuals together each year to carry on the work of providing the food, the decorations, the entertainment, and the atmosphere. Numerous civic organizations, churches, businesses, families, and individuals invest their time, energy, money, and resources so that everyone in our city can share their hearts on this day that we in the U. S. set aside to express our gratitude for God’s blessings. 

Many people have personal family events that take place that day, of course, so obviously not everyone in the city can take part freely. But a large number of people do participate in the meal. Last year alone, the team cooked and served 56 turkeys (1127 pounds), along with mountains of dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans, corn, salad, pie, ice cream, and fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies.

Most of the people come to the civic center and eat — where they are also entertained with live music, activities for the children, and sometimes large screen TV’s for the sports fans. People can also come to get carry-out meals. In addition, we have a team of people who take meals to home-bound residents, on-duty firemen and police officers, and to other citizens who have to work on Thanksgiving Day.

Everyone who comes enjoys the experience immensely.  As a newspaper reporter for many years, I have had the privilege of interviewing hundreds of the people who come to eat and visit, as well as those who volunteer to do the actual work.  Every single person I have interviewed has been lavish in his praise of the event and in his gratitude for how much joy he received personally by taking part in it.

So I’m offering this little slide show of photos that will give you an idea of some of the preparation activities as well as the big dinner itself. These photos give a small peek into the heart of my city, and I hope you enjoy them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To take part in Jake’s challenge, hop over to his site at this link:
http://jakesprinters.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/sunday-post-city/