Volunteers help make Thanksgiving in Sandusky memorable

SANDUSKY People around the area gave thanks Thursday -- some for a hot meal, some for good company,
Sarah Weber
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

People around the area gave thanks Thursday -- some for a hot meal, some for good company, and some for the safety of their son, daughter, husband or wife who is serving in the military.

The Culinary Vegetable Institute served a gourmet dinner to active duty military personnel and their families Thursday, including Sherry Rowen, whose husband, John, is stationed in Kuwait.

Rowen said she heard about the dinner through a family support group, and decided to have Thanksgiving at the institute with her daughters, Brittany, 10, and Kelly, 7.

She said it was comforting to be around other families who have a loved one in the service.

"John is due to be home right before the holidays," she said. He has been overseas for a year.

Sarah Wilson, an active duty Army specialist, attended dinner at the institute with her mother and father. A third generation soldier and 2002 Perkins High School graduate, Wilson said she was enjoying her 18 days of leave before flying back to the Anaconda base in Iraq.

"It's great that they take the time and remember that we're over there," she said.

After dinner, guests passed a microphone around the room to talk about their service or the service of a loved one. There were veterans of World War II and Vietnam who now have sons, daughters or grandchildren in the military. Some parents teared up as they talked about their children's locations halfway across the globe.

"I'm very proud to be here," said Sgt. Jeffrey Karr, who returned from service in Iraq in 2007. "I want to thank you for putting this on."

At last year's dinner, Karr, presented the institute with a flag that was flown over the Anaconda base. It was displayed in the dining room during the dinner.

Across town, hundreds of slices of pie other desserts were on display at Holy Angels Catholic Church Gymnasium. Members from Holy Angels Catholic Church, Zion Lutheran and volunteers from the community hosted hundreds of people for a traditional hearty Thanksgiving meal.

Rob Pfanner, Sandusky, dished out mashed potatoes in a line of volunteers making plates for hungry guests.

"My family is out of town for a death in the family in Florida so I'm by myself," Pfanner said. "So I thought I would come in here and volunteer."

Servers carried plates heaped with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, peas and yams to rows of seated guests.

Zion Lutheran Pastor John Mawhirter said he expected to serve more than 1,200 people between dine-in guests, carry-out and delivery.

"It's an opportunity to remind myself about our community," he said.

Mawhirter said he was prepared to see more faces this year because the poor economy was putting pressure on a lot of families. He said even though times are tough, people are still being tremendously generous with their time.

"We don't even have a clue how many volunteers we have. They come and go through out the day," he said. "Hundreds."

Ben Moncher, 17, said he has volunteered at the dinner for the past 11 years with his family.

"It's kind of like a family tradition, helping others out," he said.

Moncher said he and other boys from St. Mary's Central Catholic went shopping for groceries to fill hundreds of bags.

Families could take a bag home when they were done with their meal.