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Hundreds Enjoy Community Meal
It was a Thanksgiving to remember, as roughly 400 dinners were served up at the Escalon Community Center on Thursday, Nov. 27.

There was plenty of food to go around, although by the time the event was over, there were precious few pieces of pie left. All diners went away happy, however ... and full of a tasty turkey dinner.

Coordinator Bev Arnold said she was extremely pleased with how the meal went off.

"Tommy says we served over 400 and that includes the 'to-go' meals," Arnold said.

Coordinating the cooking effort was Tommy Joyce, with a crew of volunteer servers, dishwashers, greeters and more.

"We kind of thought we'd be up from last year," Arnold admitted of the number of diners coming in to enjoy the meal, which was offered free to all in the community. "There were a lot of families, a ton this time."

DeeAnna Jackson handled the home-delivered meals and said she was a little nervous at first, with calls slow to come in. They picked up the final few days before Thanksgiving, but the 'take out' orders were still down slightly.

"In 2006 we had 92, last year 105 and this year we had 100," Jackson said, noting that the meal being served in the recently reopened and renovated Community Center may have been a factor.

"I think the newness of it," she said of more people coming in to sit down for the meal at the center rather than just order ahead to take it out.

"I would rather people come in," added Arnold, who said it made for a festive atmosphere.

Offered from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Arnold said diners actually arrived earlier than that and as soon as everything was ready, they started to serve. Turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, salad, rolls, cranberry sauce and a choice of pie for dessert assured that there would be something for everyone to eat and enjoy.

Back helping out for a second year was young volunteer Rachel DeVecchio, now eight-years-old.

"Spraying the whipped cream," was her favorite part of helping out, she said, as she got to spend some time at the pie table putting the finishing touches on dessert.

Volunteer crews worked efficiently to provide drinks, take dinner orders and serve up the steaming plates of food. Others were kept busy boxing up the take out orders or riding along to take the holiday meals to the elderly and shut-ins that couldn't attend the dinner.

"It was hard but fun," Mia DeVecchio, 10, said of her brief stint as a holiday waitress.

She did enjoy the fringe benefit, getting a chance to eat once the diners stopped coming in.

"I love the mashed potatoes," she admitted.

Several diners were enjoying each other's company and the food at a festively decorated table, marveling at the amount of Thanksgiving goodness heaped on their plates.

"The food and the fellowship of friends," Bobby Bice said of what he enjoyed about the day and sharing the Community Center meal. "The hospitality is wonderful."

Jo Ann Jackson noted that their servers were children and "they did a great job" in welcoming the group of diners and taking their order.

For many, attending the community dinner has become a holiday tradition and Arnold said through generous contributions to the Escalon Ministerial Association, they were able to meet the need once again.

"This has been awesome," she said. "We love it."