Local churches celebrated 25 years of turkey and trimmings with 1,050 community members yesterday.
Church members from Zion Evangelical Lutheran and Holy Angels Catholic as well as community volunteers served Thanksgiving dinner to families in need as well as individuals who didn't want to spend the day alone, breaking the previous years record of 945 meals.
"This food is the best cooking I get all year," Sandusky resident Denale Andrews said. "I'm not one much for cooking and I don't like to be home alone when everyone else out there is with family, so I've been coming here as long as I can remember."
Turkey, stuffing, peas, mashed potatoes, yams, rolls and varieties of homemade desserts and beverages covered tables at the front of the already packed gym.
Nine-year volunteer Dan Moncher said about30 community organizations and businessesprovided food cartons and paper bags for take-out dinners and close to 100 turkeys for the event.
"We're blessed with the amount of help we have," he said. "This is truly a team effort by the community."
Pastor John Mawhirter who has been with the Zion church for about 13 years, said usually seats are available for those coming in the door, but this year finding a vacant one was rare.
"Usually the flow is consistent and we have time to spread everything out," he said. "This year everyone came at once and just kept coming."
Families walked in from the cold and filed into the serving line, patiently waiting their turns. Volunteers ushered many out of line to chairs and personally brought them trays of food which were placed on place mats hand drawn by the congregations' children.
"I hate waiting in line but I'd do it because these people are working hard to make this day good for all of us" Stella Matter said. "I'm not patient and many people aren't, so I'm glad the volunteers are so nice and accommodating."
Of the 75-100 volunteers, about 25 of them were clumped in what would be a spacious kitchen, working in assembly lines to fulfill the awaiting crowd.
First time volunteer Peg Gavin, who is active with Serving Our Seniors, scooped peas onto trays with a smile.
"I'm glad to be here," she said. "It really amazes you, the amount of people who are helping out and the amount of people who come here."
Gavin said the attendees aren't just families who are on Welfare like most would assume, but families who've been dropped with a diminishing middle class.
Bags of groceries, including diapers, paper towels and bread waited at the rear of the gym to be brought home by each family.
"We had about $1,500 in donations to spend," Moncher said. "Seven of us went shopping. We had 11 carts, 300 loaves of bread and other nonperishable items. We came back with 46 cents."
Student volunteers Ben Moncher, Brian Ferber and Ian Feyedlem took a rest after serving to grab a bite to eat themselves.
"I've been doing this for a long time," Ferber said. "It's fun to help people out."
Wiping down tables and replenishing place mats, Cecile Corrick said she and her daughter Ellen have been coming to the dinner for about eight years to volunteer their time.
"We started coming here after my mother passed away," she said. "We've been coming here ever since. My daughter and I just want to help others out."
Deeming the event as successful, Moncher said clean-up ended a little after 2 p.m., half an hour after the kitchen closed shop.
"We started running low at the end" Moncher said. "We had about 300 meals delivered and about 750 walk-ins. We're very excited about the turn-out."
Moncher said although most of the food was gone, the little that is left will be given to a local food pantry.