"Can I get you anything else?" asked ten-year-old Angel Gutberlet as she wound her way through the crowded dining hall at Norwood United Methodist Church Thursday afternoon.
Gutberlet, along with her five siblings - Mayleigh Seagle, 10, Alexsandriah Gutberlet 8, Hayleigh Thompson, 6, Zach Gutberlet 5, and Myah Barickman, 3 - were part of an army of volunteers helping at one of many community Thanksgiving Day meals served across the Mid-Ohio Valley.
"It's good to dedicate your time," said Mayleigh, as she went around scooping up empty plates.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Sisters Myah Barickman, left, and Angel Gutberlet, center, grabbed a drink for Duane Murray, 73, of Marietta Thursday afternoon at Norwood United Methodist Church’s annual Thanksgiving Day community meal. Thanks to support from several area churches, the meal was able to serve over 400 individuals both at the church and through area deliveries.
Meanwhile in Lowell, another group of youthful helpers took orders and ran heaping plates of turkey, mashed potatoes, and ham back from the kitchen to appreciative community members at the Lowell United Methodist Church.
"It's kind of a whole church effort. We really like to involve our youth." said event organizer Cindy Worthington, of Lowell.
At NUMC in Marietta, around 200 community members gathered to enjoy the free traditional Thanksgiving Day meal, generously provided by the support of ten area churches and a few private donations, said event coordinator Tom Insley.
By the numbers
Norwood United Methodist Church
328 pounds of turkey
100 pounds of ham
8 pounds of mashed potatoes
12 pounds of green beans
96 boxes of stuffing
46 dozen rolls
50 pumpkin pies
6 cans of whipped topping
60 serving sheet cake
Lowell United Methodist Church
50 pounds of turkey
15 pounds of ham
5 gallons of mashed potatoes
3 gallons of green beans
10 boxes of stuffing
6 dozen rolls
10 pumpkin pies
6 gallons of noodles
"This more of a community dinner. This is not just our church's dinner," added Insley's wife, Vicky.
The church also delivered another 234 meals to those who could not make it, said NUMC member Bonnie Rake, who oversaw the deliveries.
In putting together over 400 meals, the church purchased 328 pounds of turkey, 100 pounds of ham, 96 boxes of stuffing, 46 dozen rolls, 8 pounds of mashed potatoes, 12 pounds of green beans, and 50 pies.
The food, which is purchased at nearby Food 4 Less, cost around $1,000. Additional expenses, such as plates and napkins, made the total cost of the meal nearly $1,400, said Tom Insley.
"Area churches furnish this meal. We couldn't do it without their support," he added.
Thursday marked the church's fourteenth community Thanksgiving Day meal, and the event has become a Thanksgiving Day custom for many attendees.
"We've just kind of made it a tradition. We come every year," said Florence Schlotterbeck, 64, of Marietta.
The event is also the perfect excuse to meet up with friends and maybe meet some new ones in the process.
"I've seen a few familiar faces," said 43-year-old Dan Chociej, of Marietta.
Chociej's relatives live in Washington and the meal is a good opportunity to get out and socialize on Thanksgiving Day, he said.
In Lowell, around 30 people enjoyed the Thanksgiving bounty. Though the crowd was smaller, it was not lacking in that same spirit of good food and friends.
Gaerry Imes, 75, came to Lowell from Zanesville to visit his sister. He and sister Carolyn Imes, 73, came to the last year's meal and decided to make it a tradition.
"I just get down here three or four times a year, for special events and stuff," said Gaerry.
"Did you just say I'm special?" joked Carolyn.
Being surrounded by friends is what makes the meal so special, added 83-year-old Lowell resident Flo Parcell.
Plus Parcell added, "I don't have to cook!"
The community Thanksgiving meal, which is in its second year, is one of three ministries the church has in the works, said LUMC Pastor Pamela Lashley. The Ramp Up For Jesus program allows community members in need to borrow one of the church's aluminum wheelchair ramps for as long as needed and the Serving One Another Positively, or SOAP program, provides free health and beauty supplies, such as toothpaste, laundry detergent and shampoo to those in need, she said.
"We're lucky to have such a loving, caring group of people here," added Lashley.
A spirit of camaraderie is exactly what the church had in mind when they planned the first dinner last year, said Worthington.
"It's great to be able to feed someone who might not have a Thanksgiving, but the fellowship is more important than anything," she said.
Free Thanksgiving meals were also offered at other churches throughout the community Thursday.