‘THIS IS MY FAM­ILY’

The 33rd annual Com­mu­nity Thanks­giv­ing Din­ner brings fam­ily and friends to­gether

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Gin­ger Rae Dun­bar gdun­bar@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @GingerDun­bar on Twit­ter

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.

PHO­TOS BY GIN­GER RAE DUN­BAR — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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.

PHO­TOS BY GIN­GER RAE DUN­BAR - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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.

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