Leader found for Norwood Thanksgiving project

A Thanksgiving tradition that goes back a dozen years will go ahead again this year thanks to the intervention of a newly arrived family in Marietta.

Until a couple days ago, Pastor Brian Webber of the Norwood United Methodist Church feared the church’s annual Thanksgiving dinner, which in past years has served a free meal to more than 500 people on the holiday, might need to be canceled this year.

Although the church has plenty of volunteers for the annual feast, Webber said over the years several congregation members who provided overall supervision of the event have either died or were not available this year.

Organization of the event involves, among other tasks, coordination of people, food ordering and preparation, delivery drivers – most of the meals are either sent out to people who are unable to attend the meal at the church or picked up and taken out – and setting up the church for the dinner.

“We want to do it right, and be helpful to the most people we can,” he said. “There has to be somebody coordinating things, making sure everything is there and set up. We need a project manager.”

On Thursday, Webber confirmed that he had found that person.

Michael Williams and his family moved to Marietta in June and have been looking for a way to become involved in the community. The Norwood Thanksgiving project offered that opportunity.

“I like to cook, and I’ve done this sort of work before as a volunteer,” Williams said Thursday. “I really value the relationships I’ve made through work like this. It comes down to being part of the community, and my wife and I have always looked forward to this kind of opportunity.”

Williams moved to Marietta after taking an offer from Marietta College to set up a masters program in clinical mental health. He was born in Dayton and graduated from Ohio University. He and his family moved to Marietta from Lynchburg, Va., where was teaching at the University of Lynchburg.

He said he’s eager to become part of the Norwood project.

“They’ve been feeding about 500 people with this for a dozen years, so they’re reaching a lot of people in the community,” he said. “What I intend to do is assess the needs and the resources, the people helping out and their skills. I’m really hoping that the people who already are helping out will reach out to others. And if people have something to contribute that would be much appreciated, even if it’s just going down to Kroger and picking up a couple of pies.”

Williams, 42, said it also could be an avenue for him and his family to connect to the community.

“We’ve got three children, ages 10 to 15, and I hope to put them to work in some capacity,” he said.

He said he’s happy to play a role in preserving the Norwood tradition.

“It’s a long relationship the community has with that congregation, it helps this community resource continue its work, and I’m part of that community now,” he said.

Webber said he’s relieved the project now has a leader.

“I’m hoping I’ll just be helping out now,” he said.

An organizing meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the church, 23 Colegate Drive, and Webber said anyone who would like to be on a committee is welcome to come.

More information is available from the church at 740-374-5606.