Community pitches in to provide Thanksgiving meal

The turnout was pretty good for two local community Thanksgiving Day dinners in Marietta and Williamstown Thursday as several hundred families and individuals shared a hearty meal with all the trimmings.

Nancy Gutberlet and friend Patricia Wilson, both of Marietta, brought their children, eight in all, to the Norwood United Methodist Church’s community dinner.

“My family is in Columbus, and (Patricia’s) husband is on the road, so on the spur of the moment we decided to come down for Thanksgiving dinner,” Gutberlet said. “We’ve volunteered to help with the dinner in past years, but this year we’re just here to enjoy the (food).”

Wilson said because her husband was working she brought her mother and two children to the church for dinner.

“If we hadn’t come here I probably wouldn’t have done anything special for Thanksgiving dinner,” she said.

Roxanne McGee, who just moved into the Marietta area from Wisconsin, came to volunteer at the church Thursday.

“This is my first time here. I went on the Internet to look for anyplace I could volunteer and found they needed help at this dinner,” she said. “I once volunteered to help with a dinner in Wisconsin and enjoyed it immensely. I have a lot to be thankful for, and all we can do that’s really meaningful in life is to help others.”

Matt Brookover and Jack Hirschfield, both from Devola, were also helping with the Norwood dinner.

“I try to get here every year to help these people out,” Brookover said. “My grandmother, Jan Bigger, usually plays the keyboard during this dinner. She’s the one who really got me into volunteering.”

Hirschfield came to volunteer at the Norwood UMC dinner for the first time with his dad, John, and brother Brandon.

“This is nice, and it’s good to be able to help these people out on Thanksgiving Day,” he said.

Tom Insley, who coordinates the annual Thanksgiving Day dinners at the church, said approximately 250 of the meals were delivered to shut-ins and other folks who may not have wanted to brave Thursday’s cold temperatures to get to the community dinner.

“We usually deliver about 175 meals, but by noon we’d already delivered 227,” he said. “And we get a steady stream of people coming and going at the church every year. A lot of elderly people come in, too, just to share a meal with friends and neighbors.”

Across the river in Williamstown people were already lined up at 1 p.m. for the American Legion General George Post 159’s annual community Thanksgiving dinner Thursday.

“This is our 13th year and we’ll probably serve around 300 people,” said Randy Williams, sons of the legion commander at Post 159.

He said anyone is welcome to have a Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings, free of charge, every year.

“There are a lot of people who can’t afford a holiday dinner, too,” Williams said. “That’s why we do this.”

Dan McCloud, second vice commander of the post, said volunteers delivered about 150 meals to area homes Thursday, and people from all over the valley travel to the post for a meal.

“We’ll see people from Marietta, Parkersburg, Belpre and Williamstown,” he said. “Some have no place else to eat.”

McCloud said the annual community dinners were originally organized by former post member Greg Meredith.

“We’re just keeping that legacy going,” he said.

Pati and Ray Peters of Parkersburg, legion members, brought most of their family to the Post 159 dinner.

“We have 13 kids, 10 grandchildren, and an 11th one on the way,” Pati said. “We try to participate in these Thanksgiving Day dinners every year.”

She noted the family also volunteers on holidays.

“On Christmas morning, before we do anything, including opening gifts, we all serve people during the community meal at the Episcopal Church in Parkersburg,” Pati added.

Randy Roberts of Marietta said he was thankful for the legion’s annual Thanksgiving meals.

“A lot of people wouldn’t have anywhere to go if they didn’t have these dinners every year,” he said.