Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 29, 2013

Community comes together to give thanks on Thanksgiving

By MICHELLE MERLIN mmerlin@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Georgia Jasinski was especially grateful to attend a Thanksgiving dinner at Grawn United Methodist Church this year. Two days earlier a terrible car accident sent the Mancelona resident to the hospital.

“I’m just glad I’m alive,” she said.

She’s also thankful for the atmosphere the church provided to its diners.

“I like the people, the community and that we have togetherness and love and food that we’ve all prepared for each other. Most of all, I’m thankful I’m able to enjoy this and be a part of this,” Jasinski said.

People across the Grand Traverse region expressed thanks during the eponymous holiday. Churches in the area, like the one in Grawn and Trinity Lutheran Church in Traverse City, provided a haven for people who otherwise would have been alone or in the cold on Thanksgiving.

“We open it up to really anybody who wants to have a nice, cozy family atmosphere dinner,” said Laura Reed, the Thanksgiving coordinator at Grawn United Methodist Church, which served nearly 100 people.

The meal at Trinity Lutheran Church, provided by the Community Meals Program, used 20 turkeys as well as ham. Gwen Stokes, the organizer of volunteers and deliveries, said that somewhere between 300 and 500 people were served at the church. Volunteers delivered another 650 meals to people’s homes, she said, a number that in other years reached nearly 1,000.

About 200 volunteers helped Stokes with meals and organizing, and so many more people offered that she had to turn them away.

“It’s rewarding work and just reminds you to be thankful,” said Toni Sober, one of the volunteers. “I get a great feeling from helping out other people.”

Other volunteers had heartwarming experiences. Margaret Kral, a junior at Central Senior High School who was doling out food on her birthday, was thrilled with one interaction in particular.

“I saw a man who had an Air Force hat on, and I thanked him for his service. He said thank you for your service here,” Kral said.

Volunteering wasn’t just about service, but also sharing a meal with others.

“We don’t have a family right around here, so it’s something to do and help out people,” said Paul Collins.

“We didn’t want to eat sandwiches alone, and we like to help people,” his wife, Dede Collins, added.

Diners were grateful for a free hot meal.

“I’m very, very thankful for this place because they have such good cooks and I have a disease that makes swallowing difficult and I can eat their food. Also the fact that they administer for free and I’ve been without employment,” said Grawn resident Barb Hill.

The company is a highlight for others.

“I just don’t want to be alone and we don’t have a big family. It’s nice to be in a church and be with others, hear good music, and eat good food,” Carol Evans, a Traverse City resident, said.

Many diners recalled well the holiday’s origins.

“Thanksgiving has a lot to do with our freedom here in the U.S. The people that came here — pilgrims, from Europe — were running from discrimination and oppression and couldn’t worship God the way they intended,” said Armando Favela. “I came here for the past five years to have Thanksgiving dinner with friends and fellow church members. It’s probably one of the finest meals we ever have.”