The OUR Center was bustling with two dozen volunteers and hundreds of individuals and families on Thanksgiving morning, all there to share the spirit of giving.
Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and all the fixings were plenty inside the OUR Center café, available as a sit-down meal for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Today we open our doors to everyone,” Executive Director Marc Cowell said. “We’re not asking any questions. If you need a meal then you are welcome to come on in, sit down, and enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal.”
Cowell said the center was expecting to serve anywhere from 250 to 300 meals, a step up from its usual 160 to 180 during the daily lunches.
“We’ve got more than enough volunteers today, and everyone is willing and excited to take on the extra work it takes to pull this meal off,” Cowell said. “I love watching our team, the volunteers, and the community come together to make this meal happen on top of what we do on a regular basis.”
For many of the volunteers at Thursday’s lunch, the OUR Center is where they spend most of their volunteer time already. Glenn Summers, adorned with a turkey hat while greeting all the visitors, volunteers at OUR Center twice weekly but said Thursday was his first chance to work the Thanksgiving meal.
“Usually we host at my home, but this year we didn’t, so I had the opportunity to come and volunteer here today,” Summers said.
Summers said he loves seeing the difference that OUR Center makes in the lives of its participants, and the Thanksgiving meal is a great chance to give the OUR Center more exposure to the community.
“The Thanksgiving meal has a far greater reach, we are able to reach out to the full community and not just the everyday member,” Summers said. “This is just a really great place for the community. I’ve had the chance to connect with so many great people here.”
Another veteran volunteer, Beverly Schrenk, said the people she volunteers with at OUR Center make it worth it to come out on special occasions, such as Thanksgiving.
“Thanksgiving is usually a time when everybody is with a group or family, so it’s great that we can come here, set up nice decorations and tablecloths, make it feel special for people, and give them the opportunity to be with others while having a nice lunch,” Schrenk said. “My hope is that this turkey dinner reminds them of a happy childhood or good memories they have around the holidays.”
The OUR Center provides daily lunches all year round and a safe space with guaranteed food for its members. An OUR Center regular, Diana, who did not want to give her last name, said the center is a special place where she knows she will be taken care of and given what she needs, and Thursday’s lunch reminds her how grateful she is for it.
“It’s gratitude,” Diana said. “That’s what I feel today. We are counting our blessings. Thanksgiving is about being with others, not sitting by yourself. Everything’s not always perfect, but being here definitely beats sitting at home alone on Thanksgiving.”