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All are welcome to the community Thank Meal Thursday

The spirit of Thanksgiving is alive and cookin' in Park Rapids.

Thursday, it won't be the Mayflower docked oceanside but a mass of cars and a Heartland bus parked "Riverside."

Pilgrims are expected to arrive in number for the 28th annual Thank Meal at Riverside United Methodist, many acting as volunteers for what has become tradition for many.

Four single women "who were without families" initiated the event - Margaret Kimball, Marcy Roach, Joyce Peet and Sandy Drury.

The first year, the culinary quartet roasted two turkeys, feeding about 20, 10 meals delivered to homes, Sandy Drury recalled of the meals cooked in the church basement at the church's former location on Park Avenue.

"It was a wonderful fellowship," Drury recalled. "Everyone helped. Everyone brought food. It was great for people to come together to serve others.

"That's what Christ did for us."

This year, coordinator Spike Wellman anticipates 600 to 700 will give thanks for the meal that's served on site from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and delivered to about 200 area residents.

Thirty-plus turkeys will be roasting in the oven and area church members will be providing pies (120) and salads.

A free-will offering is received.

"This is not just a church function," Wellman explained. Nor is it a fundraiser for the church. All remaining funds are returned to the community, he said. Last year the Hubbard County Food Shelf received a $500 donation.

Park Rapids schools, the Headwaters Intervention Center and other organizations have received donations.

This year's economy has prompted Wellman to solicit funds from businesses and service organizations.

Work begins Wednesday morning at the church, with volunteers arriving before sunrise Thanksgiving Day to begin heating the meal.

The menu is classic Thanksgiving fare - turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, rolls, cranberries, green beans, salads and pies.

"Captains" head the pie room, orchestrate beverage distribution, table resetting, kitchen activity and meal delivery.

Drury will be among those behind the wheel to deliver the food and good wishes.

Pastors Lee and Laurie Kantonen will lead the prayer and participate in the serving line.

To have a meal delivered or to arrange a ride, call the hotline at 237-8759.