‘THIS IS MY FAMILY’
The 33rd annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner brings family and friends together
WEST CHESTER >> The 33rd annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner provided more than a meal to those who sought company with family and new friends.
Ed Campbell, of Downingtown, occasionally goes to the West Chester Area Senior Center for breakfast. He decided this year to attend the dinner with Brooks Montgomery, of West Chester, who has attended the dinner for years. Both veterans, they attend Goshen Baptist Church together.
“It’s nice to get together with people you know or don’t know and have a meal together,” Campbell said, an Air Force veteran who served from 1961-65.
He said he has attended Thanksgiving celebrations at the Coatesville VA in Caln when he lived there and visited.
Montgomery, who served in the Army from 1965-71 and again from 1974-96, said when he retired from the service, the senior center gave him a place to go. He said he likes to use the computer to take four language classes.
The three-hour event on Thanksgiving, run by volunteers, offered fellowship in addition to a free turkey dinner at the West Chester Area Senior Center.
Westtown School donated 16 turkeys for the event that served 203 people, according to event organizer Angel Connelly.
Several volunteers began cooking at 4 a.m. A total of 43 volunteers helped with greeting, serving and cooking. She said the event is privately funded by the event organizers.
“Make people feel at home,” Connelly said to volunteers. “That’s what it’s all about – family, community and fellowship.”
She asked the servers to converse with the guess because “that’s more important than the food.” She said that is what late event founder Herb Balian believed.
Russell Rickert, who helped Balian as the event grew, said the fellowship has continued, which is his favorite part.
“I’ve learned a long time ago that it’s about fellowship with God and others, in that order,” Rickert said.
He praised the “fine crew in the kitchen” for their role.
Sue Temple, of West Chester, has attended the dinner with her two daughters, Cara and Jenna, for years because the center is ADA-compliant and they like meeting new people each time.
“It’s a very nice community event,” Temple said, “It’s what Thanksgiving is about, family, friends and meeting new friends. It’s uplifting being here. It has everything you could want.”
They attended with their friend, Patrick Connor of West Chester, who said he enjoys the crowd of nice people who he considers family.
“Look at my family,” Connor said as he motioned to the guests at his table.
They sat with Linda Clay, of Paoli, and Susan Goldstein, of West Chester. Clay, a nurse, has worked at the center and knew some people, but it was their first time there for dinner. Clay and Goldstein spent Thursday together before visiting family later.
“I don’t have any family local,” Goldstein said. “This is my family.”
Rhea and Steven Cantor, of Glen Mills, have five children that they are celebrating Thanksgiving with on Friday.
“That freed us up to volunteer here,” said Rhea Cantor, who added this is her favorite holiday.
Steven Cantor researched places to volunteer and found this event, their first time serving at the center. He said they like to give back by donating their time when they can around the holidays.
Eric Tooke and his children, Tom and Anna, wanted to volunteer and several holiday volunteering opportunities had already been filled, such as assisting with food donations at their local church. They heard that volunteers were needed to meet the guests and volunteers at the center. A boy scout with Troop 153, Tom Tooke is volunteering time toward his service hours. Tom and Anna Tooke, who both attend Peirce Middle School, said they enjoy volunteering.
Ed Campbell, of Downingtown, left, and Brooks Montgomery, of West Chester, center, both veterans, are served coffee at the 33rd annual Community Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday at the West Chester Area Senior Center.
Sue Temple, left, attended the dinner on Thursday with her daughter, Cara Temple, center, and friend Patrick Connor, all of West Chester.
Jenna, Sue and Cara Temple, pose with their friend Patrick Connor, all of West Chester, at the 33rd annual Community Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday at the West Chester Area Senior Center.
Several volunteers assist at the 33rd annual Community Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday at the West Chester Area Senior Center.
RitaAnn Robinson, of West Chester, serves food at the 33rd annual Community Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday at the West Chester Area Senior Center.