A total of 417 meals were served at the annual Thanksgiving Day dinner held Thursday at St. Francis Borgia Grade School cafeteria.
That number includes deliveries and carryouts, according to Karen Engelkemeyer, one of the longtime volunteers for the event.
This was the 29th year for the dinner — free and open to anyone spending the holiday alone, away from family or who simply cannot provide a meal for themselves or their family.
A team of volunteers, numbering around 50, helped serve the traditional turkey dinner with all of the trimmings. The meal itself was prepared by Denny Holtmeyer with Droege’s Catering.
“It was a wonderful day and I feel it might have been one of the best we’ve had,” Engelkemeyer told The Missourian Friday morning.
“At one point, I stopped and just watched and listened, and I heard a lot of joyous noise, just like what you would at a family gathering,” she said. “And that’s exactly what we want to hear.”
Engelkemeyer said although overall numbers are down from last year, the cafeteria always seemed full and volunteers stayed busy.
“We were thankful the weather cooperated and people could get out,” she said.
Engelkemeyer said a range of people came in Thursday to enjoy the meal and fellowship.
“We had young and old, some who were alone and some in small groups, it was a real mix of ages,” she said. “At one point we had to set up some extra tables because we had a lot people come in at once.”
The tables were decorated with paper turkeys.
One family with young children who came to volunteer were tasked with greeting and chatting with the guests, Engelkemeyer said, which worked very well.
“Everyone who worked and dined were happy and smiling,” she said, which is what the meal is about, providing not only a meal, but also fellowship.
All leftover food was donated to Harvest Table and any remaining donations will be shared with local food pantries and Loving Hearts.
Engelkemeyer said there are so many people to thank who helped make the dinner possible.
“We simply couldn’t do this without everyone’s help,” she said. “We want to thank the donors who contributed money and that includes businesses, organizations and individuals. The money helps pay for the food.”
St. Francis Borgia parish also donates the use of its cafeteria every year — at no cost, Engelkemeyer said.
“The committee and volunteers who help serve, clean up and deliver meals also deserve a lot of thanks,” she said. “Many of the same people return every year to help, including several families, which is amazing. These families are showing their children what it means to give back and it’s wonderful to see.”
The biggest thanks, Engelkemeyer said, goes out to Holtmeyer, who prepares the food.
“I don’t think I can say enough about the work Denny does to make this happen,” she said. “Denny and all of our volunteers do an amazing job.”
Engelkemeyer said there was one special person missing this year from the team of volunteers — the late Butch Droege, who started the event with his wife, Judy.
Droege passed away Jan. 7, 2019.
“We missed his leadership and guidance,” said Engelkemeyer, but Judy was able to be there.