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Carthage volunteers cook up a tasty turkey day feast

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CARTHAGE — While many people spent Thanksgiving Day slaving over a meal for their families, volunteers spent their day making and delivering free meals for an entire community.

“I just hate to think of anybody being alone on Thanksgiving,” said Carthage Lions Club member Jeanne Fuller.

Ms. Fuller and her family came up with the dinner idea. The family decided to do something to give back to the community, and it evolved into the Community Thanksgiving Feast.

Thursday’s meal was hosted by Carthage Elks Lodge 1762, which is at 511 Fulton St., and organized by members of the Elks and the Lions.

An estimated 60 people turned out for the meal, with close to 30 volunteers offering their time.

Some volunteers, like Anne M. Rohr, have come to offer a helping hand at the dinner each year since its inception in 2009. “My family will be getting together, but not till later. They know this is important to me,” said Ms. Rohr.

There were plenty of other reasons for volunteers to offer up their time on the holiday.

Brandon J. Lawton, 15, came to earn community service credit for school.

“I served food and set up tables,” Brandon said. He said the best part of the experience was knowing that he was helping people.

Craig Brennan came out with four other members of his family to help.

“I thought it’s a good thing for my family to do on Thanksgiving, to give back,” Mr. Brennan said. He delivered several of the approximately 60 orders that came in for takeout. “It’s very difficult for people today to make ends meet, and in some ways this helps.”

But Adam J. Fuller, Elks leading knight, stressed that the dinner was not a charity; it is about offering companionship to those who otherwise would spend the holiday alone, he said.

“It’s for the community. There are no qualifications to come, no questions asked,” he said.

“They come out if they’re alone, or maybe they’re an elderly couple that wants to socialize. It’s for people to be together with family and friends,” Ms. Fuller said.

This was true for Kimberly J. Lithkousky. This was her second year bringing daughters Edith A., 6, and Clarissa A., 18, to the dinner.

“My husband’s deployed and my older daughter’s in Germany,” Ms. Lithkousky said. “It makes us feel not so lonely.”

The girls said it was all delicious, save for one thing.

“Everything, but not for this,” said Edith, gesturing to the squash.

To be more inviting, meals were served buffet-style at two separate times rather than during an extended three hours.

“We wanted to plan a sense of community,” Ms. Fuller said. “We spread people out, where otherwise a person may come in by themself and feel alone.”

An estimated 120 pounds of turkey breast was brought in for the meal, in addition to three hams. One ham was donated, as was a whole turkey. This was the first year that ham was a menu option.

The majority of the funding came from local businesses and organizations. Leftovers were boxed up for volunteers and families as they were leaving.

Ms. Fuller said it was another successful year.

The Elks and the Lions anticipate holding the dinner again next year.

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