Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

A community to be thankful for

Henry County communities host Thanksgiving Day meals
Nov 24, 2017
Photo by: Karyn Spory Community members gathered across Henry County to celebrate Thanksgiving together. Above, members of the Winfield Lion’s Club serve all of the fixings at the Winfield Presbyterian Church.

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News


HENRY COUNTY — “Happy Thanksgiving,” says 11-year old Tatum Kane in a bright, cheery manner.

Her jovial voice is the first thing that greets guests of the Wayland Community Thanksgiving. The second is the succulent scent of the meal they’re about to enjoy.

At 11:45 a.m., the line for the community Thanksgiving meal has already spread the length of WACO High School’s cafeteria and has spilled out into the school’s lobby. The doors opened just 15 minutes prior.

“I’ve done this every year since I was little,” says Tatum.

To say the community Thanksgiving is a tradition for Tatum and her family is an understatement. Tatum’s grandfather, Greg Stacy, began the community Thanksgiving tradition a decade ago.

“She probably doesn’t know a year without this,” said Tatum’s mother Danielle Kane. “She was only one when this started.”

As guests continue to file in, Danielle begins bringing out more tables and chairs, trying to make room for every single person.

Danielle’s three other daughters also volunteer during the meal. “For us, it doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving unless we’re here,” she said.

Since Danielle’s father passed, family friend Alicia Lemon has taken the helm of the community dinner. “This is wonderful,” she said surveying the school cafeteria. “I think this is pretty rewarding for everyone involved.”

Lemon said the meal isn’t just for those without family in the area, it’s for the entire community. Lemon said many members of local churches that have donated food often come to enjoy the meal and visit. “I think it’s rewarding for the people who have volunteered or donated to see it all come to pass,” she said.

Denise Freyenberger was one of those individuals. Her church donates food so she thought she’d come check it out as her family Thanksgiving isn’t until Saturday. “This is a really big turn out,” she admired. “I think this is good for the community.”

This was the first year Janet Sterling and Jim Renfro attended the community Thanksgiving. “We love community dinners,” said Sterling. “We love the comradery of all the people in town coming together.”

“Plus, all this work has been done, it’d be a shame not to come,” she said with a chuckle.

Wayland wasn’t the only community that came together to give thanks. In Winfield the local Lions Club put together a meal. The Winfield community Thanksgiving was started nine years ago by the late Paul Thompson.

“His motto was to help and to serve others,” said his widow Joan Thompson.

The meal was held at the Winfield Presbyterian Church and had a freewill donation. The money from the donation would go toward purchasing eye glasses for children in the Winfield-Mt. Union Community School District.

Paul passed away in 2010, but the Lions Club has kept the meal going in his honor. “I wear his (Lions) pin every year and know he’s watching over us and smiling,” Joan said as her fingers traced the outline of the pin. “It almost brings tears to my eyes to know how important this was to him and that the Lions continue to do it.”

By 1 p.m. the volunteers at the Mt. Pleasant community dinner, held at the First United Methodist Church, were sitting down to enjoy the meal.

“I’m normally out of town for Thanksgiving, so this year I thought I’d come and help out,” said Shannon VanNyhuis.

VanNyhuis said she enjoyed volunteering because it gave her a chance to meet new people, like her table-mates Bob Hunt, Bill King and his caretaker, Pam Nelson.

“I think it’s wonderful they put this on,” said Nelson. “Bill’s family is away so I thought I’d bring him out here.”

King said the meal was excellent. “I’ll give it a triple A,” he joked. “Isn’t that who you call when you have car trouble on the road,” Hunt said with a laugh.

Hunt also volunteered. “I like meeting new people in the community. There’s always someone interesting to meet.”

Lisa Oetken, who helps organize the event, said she estimated about 250-260 people attended the community Thanksgiving.

“I think Thanksgiving is important to the community and it’s also important for us to celebrate together.”

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