A time to share and serve
HUNTINGTON -- Dozens of people who filed into the Huntington City Mission's cafeteria came from different walks of life.
For some, it was substance abuse or mental illness. For others, it was the struggle of being a single parent and not making enough money to put food on the table. Then there were senior citizens who had no other place to go to eat.
But for three hours Thursday, none of that mattered. All that mattered to the small army of volunteers preparing the mission's 73rd annual Thanksgiving feast is that those who walked in the door with a craving for a home-cooked meal and the fellowship and hospitality that go along with it weren't disappointed.
It took more than 35 volunteers working behind the scenes to feed Huntington's hungry. Preparations began last week with the purchase of 44 turkeys, hundreds of pounds of potatoes and all the other trimmings. In the end, there was enough food to feed about 400 people.
Sweet Confections and several local churches chipped in by making all of the desserts for the feast, which allowed full-time staffers and volunteers at the mission to focus on the main course. Students at Ranger Elementary School in Lincoln County also added a personal touch by making place mats.
The Thanksgiving dinner is about much more than serving a meal, said Lynn Clagg, the mission's special events coordinator. It's about making guests know that they are in the company of people who care about them, she said.
"Some are blessed more than others, so those who are blessed should do whatever we can to make sure everyone has a bountiful Thanksgiving."
The Marshall University men's basketball team and staff spent the day serving meals, cleaning plates and handing out drinks at the mission. Coach Tom Herrion said his players are frustrated with the rough start to their season, so he thought it would be a valuable lesson for them to give back to the community and see that not everyone is as fortunate as they are.
"It puts it all in perspective when you see people who need a whole lot more help than you do," Herrion said. "As an athlete, you think sometimes that you're invincible. This allows us to keep ourselves grounded and appreciate what we've been given in life."
Senior forward Dennis Tinnon agreed with his coach. He said helping others was his top priority of the day because most of his extended family lives too far away to spend time with at Thanksgiving.
"It's always a blessing to be able to do things like this," Tinnon said. "Whether it's passing out food or just talking to people, it makes me happy knowing I can help them smile."
Harmond Montgomery, his wife, Rena, and the couple's four children were among the few hundred who ate at the City Mission. The Montgomerys recently lost their home in Lincoln County and have been living at the City Mission for the past three weeks.
"I'm just thankful that my family and I can have a regular Thanksgiving meal, even though we're in the position we're in," Harmond said.
The City Mission wasn't the only place where those less fortunate could eat Thursday. The Salvation Army served dinners for two hours at its 3rd Avenue location.
"We've usually done this the day before, but I thought to myself, 'some people want to celebrate Thanksgiving on the day of,' " Major Matt Riley said.
The Salvation Army received food from Forth Foods, the Huntington Area Food Bank, Walmart and community members. The organization also joined forces with Huntington Lodge 795, B'Nai Brith to hand out 200 Thanksgiving food baskets on Wednesday.