Local farmer Smokey Ball got up and left the free Thanksgiving dinner at the Memorial Building early Thursday afternoon. But it wasn’t because he was too full or had other places to be.
After several requests for another one of his tasty strawberry cheesecake pies, Ball gave in and brought another one back to the hungry lot.
In all, Ball made 11 homemade pies for the free dinner hosted by Central Christian Church and St. Helen’s Church. He was one of many who donated time to the first annual free meal hosted by both churches together.
“I enjoy this,” said Ball, a member of Central Christian. “It helps the people who are unable to fix their own food. I think the thrill I get is when they like what I fix.”
The gathering fed roughly 300 people, including over 100 deliveries to people who were unable to make the trip due to physical ailments, organizers said.
Joe Parie, a member of Central Christian Church who helped plan the event, said he hopes Thursday’s gathering was the first in a long line of Thanksgiving dinners hosted by St. Helen’s and Central Christian.
In the past both churches sponsored their own dinners at separate locations.
“I think it’s important in more ways than one, for the community as well as for us,” Parie said. “Even if there’s just one person who needs a place to eat it’s well worth it.”
Volunteers cooked and donated 45 turkeys for the meal: Some baked turkeys at their homes and drove them over, others used the ovens at the Memorial Building and a few fried turkeys outside the building, where steam blew over 10-gallon fryers.
Besides turkey the buffet included mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, stuffing green beans and gravy.
St. Helen’s member Veda Urioste brought her three foster children and her niece. Urioste said it’s important to “make sure no one goes without Thanksgiving (dinner).”
Or dessert. Five-year-old Alex Serna, one of Urioste’s foster children, grabbed two sets of dessert off a giant table adorned with everything from pecan to lemon meringue pie.
The dinner took about two months of planning, two days of cooking and donations of time and money from the community and local businesses, said organizer Elvia Garcia, a member of St. Helen’s.
“I think people need to realize that we can come together as a community and give thanks,” Garcia said. “Giving thanks together is one of our top priorities.”