Gratitude will flow like turkey gravy when three free local Thanksgiving meals will be served to diners seeking food or fellowship.

And one of the meals is returning after a one-year hiatus. The America and Roby Anderson Community Center at 421 McClure Ave. in Columbus closed last year days before it would have hosted its 37th annual holiday event as the Eastside Community Center.

Community leaders reopened the facility earlier this year. The State Street Area Association is spearheading the donation-supported, turkey-and-fixings meal served in shifts from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 19.

“Bringing the meal back definitely was what we always had in mind because so many of the residents said they missed it,” said Julie Bilz, association president.

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Volunteers from First Church of the Nazarene, just slightly north of the center along McClure Avenue, will help serve and clean up afterward, Bilz said.

Planners are estimating they will feed about 300 people, including meals to be delivered by several off-duty Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department deputies. The last time the meal was served in 2014, more than 500 diners participated.

Volunteers served 679 meals last year at First Christian Church’s gathering on Thanksgiving Day, Diane Doup said. As Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center’s outreach coordinator, Doup helps coordinate the event along with people from the church and others from FedEx, which helps plan delivery routes and delivers meals too.

The gathering is scheduled from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Nov. 24. Deliveries begin shortly before people are served at the site, 531 Fifth St. The church covers expenses from the event.

“We try to ensure well in advance that we’ll have enough food for everyone,” Doup said.

She added that people who get meals delivered — a maximum of six per household — are as appreciative as anyone on the holiday.

“Some of these people have told us that, if not for the delivery, they would not have seen anyone else at all that (Thanksgiving) day,” Doup said of people living alone with no in-town relatives to visit.

At Columbus Baptist Church on the city’s north side, volunteers such as Paul Henderson and Wilma Compton already had received a few meal-reservation calls in the first few days of November.

“I think a lot of people still order the meals because there is a real need,” Henderson said. “Some of these people are just down on their luck or still out of a job.”

The church’s “Feed the Flock” event will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 4821 U.S. 31 North. Deliveries will be made just before the on-site serving. Volunteers served 585 people last year, mostly via home deliveries.

Henderson said the volunteers — many from Columbus Baptist, but a growing number from elsewhere — who prepare and serve the food generally seem happy to help others.

“It just makes you that much more grateful for all that you have all year round,” Henderson said.

Free holiday meals overview

Three Thanksgiving community meals are planned in Columbus for anyone interested in joining in or having the meals delivered.

America and Roby Anderson Community Center

When: 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 19.

Where: 421 McClure Ave. in Columbus.

Onsite reservations and deliveries: 812-375-2216.

First Christian Church

When: 12:30 to 2 p.m. Nov. 24.

Where: 531 Fifth St. in Columbus.

Onsite reservations and deliveries: 812-379-1630.

Columbus Baptist Church

When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 24.

Where: 4821 N. U.S. 31 in Columbus.

Onsite reservations and deliveries: 812-371-1400 or 812-344-1794.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.