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Thanksgiving Community Banquet coming up

November 17, 2018

Regina McDuffee can’t help but smile when talking about Thanksgiving 2017 in Columbus.

“It was one of the best days of my life,” she said, with a smile. “It pulls on my heartstrings like you have no idea.”

About 10:50 that morning almost a year ago, McDuffee and her friend Kirk Nelson were inside 1C Church, The Sanctuary, awaiting the annual Thanksgiving Community Banquet’s start at 11. The tables were set with the centerpieces and the homemade placemats, music was playing and ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ signs were on the wall. It was like a home away from home.

“I remember standing there and saying, ‘oh my gosh,’ this is beautiful,” she recalled.

Nelson asked her if she knew what was going to make it better, and she had an immediate reply.

“I responded, ‘yeah, people,’” she said. “It was beautiful. We both just started crying.”

McDuffee is gearing up to help 1C Church host the annual Thanksgiving Community Banquet yet again, only this time she is the chairwoman of the church’s committee for the event that is free and open to everyone. Set to run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day (Thursday) at the church, 2200 28th Ave. in Columbus, McDuffee and dozens of other organizers are hoping to get as many people as possible to come to enjoy the food and fellowship.

Thanks to donations from many community members, the free meal menu will feature turkey/a yet-to-be-announced beef option, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, green bean casserole, cranberry relish, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie – all the essential fixings one needs for a signature Thanksgiving dinner.

“This is a burden-free meal,” she said. “Someone’s got to serve the community. That’s what you got to do. That’s why we do this.”

There were 40 turkeys donated for the meal, according to McDuffee, who noted organizers expect to cook 35. On Monday, volunteers will bake about 25 pumpkin pies. Fourth graders from West Park Elementary and students of the Immanuel Lutheran School in Columbus will be decorating placemats for the event.

McDuffee clarified the community dinner is not just for those who are less fortunate. She said oftentimes people who don’t want to go to the trouble of cooking a gigantic meal for a few people, or just want to attend, should come. The dinner is for anybody wanting to have a good time and delicious food, she stressed.

“We’re hoping for 600,” she said of expectations for attendees. “Anybody can show up, get a free meal and enjoy the fellowship of your friends and neighbors, as well as the people you meet that day.”

Last year, McDuffee said 530 people were served, including the 135 home deliveries that were made. Crews will once again be delivering to people who can’t drive, don’t drive or are homebound. Just call 402-835-5511 and leave a message to sign up for home meal delivery by the end of the day Wednesday. People who would like to donate a salad or dessert for the community meal can do so by dropping it off at the church between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley said the annual banquet is one of the community’s most important events all year, noting it’s one of the many things that make Columbus special. He also praised the church and all volunteers for their efforts.

“What an awesome opportunity to give thanks - coming together to offer fellowship for many that might otherwise be alone. To take meals to those who are unable to get out on their own. And to just spend a wonderful day giving thanks for all that we have here in Columbus. This effort by 1C is just another example of how blessed we are in Columbus,” Bulkley said.

“The turnout for this event just gets bigger and bigger and that is because everyone feels so good while they participate. I have not had the opportunity to help with this event and I am committed elsewhere this year, but I know many that are involved and the enjoyment that they get from helping is unbelievable.”

For McDuffee, who is a Nebraska native who moved to New Jersey for 30 years before moving to town two-and-a-half years ago, said being part of the committee that spearheads the banquet is rewarding. She said it takes a ton of work, but that it’s a labor of love for her. McDuffee referred to the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce’s motto when describing the banquet.

“When they say ‘Something Good,’ the campaign from the chamber, this is something good,” she said, with a smile. “This is something that makes Columbus a good place to live.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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