Thanksgiving volunteering

There are still ways to help, in certain cases.

Many families’ Thanksgivings traditions include volunteering to serve turkey dinners to those less fortunate.

Several local charities, however, said volunteers probably should have signed up a couple months ago.

Springfield Soup Kitchen is the only organization we consulted that would still take volunteers simply because “anytime I can get volunteers, I do not reject them,” President Fred Stegner said.

But there are still ways you can help.

Some organizations need volunteers at other events during Thanksgiving week. And all said they need food or money during the holidays as well as volunteers for non-holiday months.

Local events range from a turkey feast for about 175 guests Wednesday night at One Bistro in Miamisburg to the area’s largest dinner for the needy, “A Feast of Giving” at the Dayton Convention Center, where 8,000 to 10,000 diners are expected.

“A Feast of Giving” runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, and RTA is offering free bus service to get there.

About 500 volunteers will arrive as early as 7 a.m., and Convention Center chefs will cook all night beforehand. But volunteers were solicited back in September, according to Betsy Russell, creative services director at ABC-22, which is organizing the dinner. She said an event this big requires much advance planning, so volunteer sign ups happened early. Monetary donations are still being taken.

At New Life Mission in Hamilton, Margie Hensley, community service administrator, has a waiting list of 8 or 9 volunteers for the turkey dinner at noon Wednesday, where she’s expecting a crowd of more than 500.

But she needs volunteers to pack sack lunches on Saturday mornings, bag and freeze donated food on Fridays, and serve meals year-round.

House of Bread in Dayton serves hot lunch 365 days a year, so its turkey meal for about 200 will be held Thursday.

“I’ve had a flood of phone calls” from prospective volunteers, said Melodie Bennett, executive director. “That’s a great thing — it’s wonderful — but I must be getting five calls a day.”

Her volunteer schedule is almost full through New Year’s, but an online calendar is already posted for 2014 sign ups. And donations are always appreciated, whether food, money or gift cards for stores that sell food.

One Bistro will serve three shifts by reservation at 4:30, 6 and 7:30 p.m. for Wednesday’s turkey dinner. While Manager Debra Lindholm says she has enough volunteers that day, her staff is entirely volunteer all year long. One Bistro offers pay-as-you-can brunch and lunch dishes and free weekly community dinners, and like One Bistro, it has an online volunteer calendar for sign ups.

At Springfield Soup Kitchen, Stegner has used as many as 47 volunteers in a single day because “we have patrons come in and sit down, and we take their orders and serve them out of courtesy and respect because they don’t get that all week long.”

Springfield’s Olive Garden will take over the soup kitchen to serve an Italian Thanksgiving meal from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday. Tables will be set up outside with Italian music playing over a sound system and hot chocolate and blankets to keep clients warm.

Olive Garden wants to provide all the volunteer service on Thursday, but the Soup Kitchen will serve a Thanksgiving Eve meal for about 200 people at 5 p.m. Wednesday as well.

One of Stegner’s favorite memories perhaps illustrates why families want to volunteer during the holidays. Two years ago, the soup kitchen held a grand opening of its present location with a Thanksgiving Eve dinner, and as people stood in line, someone broke into a chorus of “Amazing Grace.”

In spite of their hard circumstances, “we had 100 people singing ‘Amazing Grace.’ ”

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