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Changes in store for community Thanksgiving meals

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McKenna Downey dishes out mashed potatoes to guests at a previous Thanksgiving Day dinner at First Christian Church.
FILE McKenna Downey dishes out mashed potatoes to guests at a previous Thanksgiving Day dinner at First Christian Church.

The Rev. Charles Kennedy heard some people suggest that some of the residents receiving Columbus Baptist Church’s home-delivered Thanksgiving meals also ordered free dinners across town on the holiday just so they could have extra food.

But he usually shrugged off concerns about double dipping as his church’s small band of volunteers prepared more than 700 turkey dinners with all the trimmings.

“I know people must have taken advantage of Jesus, too,” Kennedy said.

This year, though, Columbus Baptist is teaming with those organizing First Christian Church’s community Thanksgiving meal to compare diner lists to avoid sending meals to the same homes. Organizers stress that those truly in need will not be overlooked.

Diane Doup of Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center is a key leader for the First Christian gathering that served 617 diners last year, either on-site or through home delivery.

“Our plan is finding the best way to serve as many people as possible,” Doup said. “And we’re excited to see how we can make the best use of resources together. We think this is a great first step.”

Columbus Baptist will serve its meal from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 22 at its building at 4821 U.S. 31. And First

Christian still will serve its dinner from 12:30 to 2 p.m. the same day at its building, 531 Fifth St.

Each of the meal sites began simply as a way of offering fellowship to those with nowhere to go on the holiday or no way to prepare a meal. They also have become a popular outlet for volunteers wanting to share simple holiday warmth with others.

Those are the very reasons that Eastside Community Center is ending its home meal deliveries. Last year, volunteers served about 1,200 meals on the weekend before Thanksgiving. And 1,000 of them were delivered.

That left Eastside Executive Director Priscilla Scalf dismayed.

“The biggest problem is that, in recent years, our Thanksgiving meal somehow moved away from what it was intended to be — people coming together to share a meal with one another,” Scalf said.

So Eastside will serve meals from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 17 at its building at 421 McClure Road. And instead of sending diners through a serving line, they will be seated at tables in shifts and served family style.

And there will be no deliveries, since Scalf said it has become nearly impossible to tell who actually cannot get out of the house to eat.

“We really have no good way to check,” she said. Scalf said home-delivered dinners for the sheer convenience of diners “defeats the whole purpose of our Thanksgiving meal, of people coming together.”

Free community Thanksgiving meals

Eastside Community Center, 421 McClure Road. Served 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 17. No deliveries. Reservations: 376-7840 or

Columbus Baptist Church, 4821 U.S. 31. Served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 22, both dine-in and delivery. Reservations: 379-1630 or 390-0226 by 4 p.m. Nov. 19.

First Christian Church, 531 Fifth St. (enter through the door facing Lafayette Avenue). Served 12:30 to 2 p.m., both dine-in and delivery. Reservations: 379-1630 or 379-4491 by 4 p.m. Nov. 19.

People also can use the numbers above to volunteer to help with a range of tasks at any of the meals.

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