Friday, November 26, 2010

Neighbors and guests give thanks at community dinner

by Susan Gartner

Friends, family, neighbors, and guests came together yesterday for the Annual Yellow Springs Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the First Presbyterian Church. Sponsored by the Yellow Springs Interspiritual Council, the event attracts young and old, friends and strangers, encouraging a spirit of community and connection.

"It’s kind of like sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with two-hundred and ninety-nine family members.”

That’s how Dana Foster described the event when I spoke with her the morning after an estimated 300 guests showed up at the church. Foster is one of the coordinators of the Community Thanksgiving which holds a certain magical quality for me when I think of all the “elves” that help pull it off each year.

Coordination of the event is three months in the making with meetings starting in September. Volunteers are recruited in advance for a long list of tasks including the cooking of the turkeys, table set-up and clean-up, and washing dishes. Guests are invited (but not required) to bring a dish to share. The overflowing tables of food — including vegetarian and vegan entrees — suggests that Yellow Springs is a village that likes to cook!

Foster is grateful for all the assistance that makes the event so successful including the ad placed in the Yellow Springs News, courtesy of Jackson Lytle & Lewis Funeral Home, and the impromptu elves that turned up on Thanksgiving day.

“People just showed up early,” she said, “and asked, ‘What can I do?’”

The plan for next year is to reimburse the turkey cooks for the cost and preparation of the turkeys. This year’s free-range turkeys came from Tom’s Market and Foster hopes that next year’s cooks will follow in that tradition.

About 25 volunteers are needed the day of the event to cover tasks such as room set-up, keeping the serving tables continually supplied with dishes that are warming in the church’s oven, managing overflow and directing people to available seating, monitoring coffee and drinks, clearing dirty dishes from the tables, washing dishes, taking down tables, putting away chairs, and putting the room back in order.

Each year towards the end of the dinner, Foster makes the announcement encouraging guests to use one of the carryout containers provided, load it up with leftovers, and bring it to someone who was unable to attend. Foster would like this to become a more coordinated effort next year with homebound persons signing up in advance and volunteers committing to deliver the meals afterwards.

“You don’t even have to come to the meetings,” she assured future volunteers. “I do a lot of coordinating by e-mail.”

I asked Foster what the view was like from the kitchen – how were the volunteers holding up from the barrage of dirty dishes? “They were tired but happy,” she said. “They felt good about being part of such a good thing.” Foster herself enjoyed looking out over Westminster Hall and seeing villagers greeting strangers and engaging in conversation. “That’s the payback for us,” she said, “seeing people enjoying themselves, meeting new people, having good conversations, and eating good food prepared by villagers.”

As for Foster, herself, having a chance to enjoy the meal, she told me with a laugh, “I did sit down long enough to eat with my dad!”

For more information on volunteering or to get on the list of homebound persons who might enjoy a meal delivered next year, contact the church at 767-7751 or e-mail

photos by Susan Gartner -- November 25, 2010
posted to A Yellow Springs Blog -- November 26, 2010