Volunteers thankful for community Thanksgiving dinner.

November 26, 2014
Joyce Usiak, left, along with Julia and Megan Maltbie, prepare items in the kitchen.

Joyce Usiak, left, along with Julia and Megan Maltbie, prepare items in the kitchen.

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By Kate Krieger. Senior Correspondent. 

LUDINGTON – Thanksgiving can be a time to give back to those less fortunate. The volunteers at the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner are no strangers to giving thanks for all that they have and their abilities to share what they have with others.

This year marks the 28th year that Emmanuel Lutheran Church has hosted the dinner and current chair, Vicki Dorrell is excited to see another great turnout of volunteers returning to make the dinner special for everyone who attends and those who help as well.

“The dinner has always been hosted by Emmanuel,” she says. “It’s a nice location because it’s in the middle of the city and many people can even walk here.”

Vicki and past chair, Diane Shank have been volunteering for many years at the dinner and they said that about 400 people attend the dinner each year.

“It’s amazing how consistent the attendance is,” Vicki says.

Diane says the original purpose behind the dinner was to get people out with their families, to the church to enjoy each other and to share in the overall fellowship that the event offers.

Both Vicki and Diane say one of the great things about the dinner is also seeing volunteers continue to return to assist and then bringing family members along to share in the tradition.

“It’s really nice to have families who have kids coming now to help,” Diane says. “We advertise for volunteers and have a lot of people calling, but it’s a lot of the same people coming back year after year.”

The volunteers serve 22 turkeys each year at the dinner and Vicki and Diane say without some certain volunteers, they’d be at a lost because the church doesn’t have enough room or the right equipment.

“The high school volunteered to cook the turkeys back when Jeanne and Mike Oakes were volunteering,” Vicki says. “Donna Garrow, who runs the high school kitchen, is amazing. She gets up at 5 a.m. Thursday morning and prepares the turkeys and the dressing. Bruce and Jennifer Doggett have helped take that part over as well.”

Mike and Buffy Nagle, along with their two daughters, Elizabeth and Maggie and Joyce Usiak and her family have also been great volunteers for many years.

“Mike and Buffy, talk about great volunteers,” Vicki says. “Joyce Usiak and a group of her family and friends take care of the desserts, the relishes and they organize all the meal deliveries.”

The Ludington High School home economics classes, along with their teacher Jen Rowe bake all the pies for the dinner. Vicki and Diane say the students love helping out with the event and always tell people to try the pie they prepared.

Diane isn’t the only member of her family involved with the dinner, her husband Gene, daughter Megan Maltbie and granddaughters Julia and Erin Maltbie also have been volunteering for years.

“Julia and I think we’ve been volunteering for 10 years,” Megan says. “ My mother was the organizer before Vicki and that’s how we got involved. It’s a great opportunity to caught up with those you haven’t seen.”

Megan and her daughters say they really get a sense of joy helping out at the event and getting to see all the different people and the familiar faces of the volunteers.

“I think it’s a great way to see people,” Julia says. “Some of these people might be alone on Thanksgiving or not have the resources to have a dinner. It’s just a great time to share with people.”

Volunteer David Hammond-Koskey adds that, “it’s a great community service and not everyone who volunteers are members here at the church.”

Megan says there are a lot of great memories she has from all of the years volunteering, but there is a gentleman who comes every year and does something special to help give back in his own way.

“There’s a gentleman who is a gifted piano player,” she says. “He comes to eat in the beginning and then plays the piano for everyone while they eat. It’s quite a boost for him because he doesn’t get to play all that often. Everyone has gifts in what they can share.”

Thankful for all the volunteers who come out each year, Vicki says the dinner would be very difficult to pull off each year if it weren’t for the volunteers. She is happy to know that everyone involved is making some kind of impact on each other’s lives and the lives of all the people they serve on Thanksgiving.

“It would be so hard to do without all of these people,” she says. “We have some amazing helpers that I am grateful for.”

Emmanuel Lutheran Church is located at 501 E. Danaher St. The dinner is free and open to the public with seatings at noon and 1 p.m.

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