While many are thinking of football, eating and relaxing today, more than 220 St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish volunteers have spent the past two days preparing 110 turkeys and all the trimmings to feed roughly 1,000 people this Thanksgiving.
Beginning at 10 a.m. today, deliveries will begin to homes throughout the county of those in need. The doors of the church also will open at roughly 1 p.m. with all invited to come in and enjoy a meal, which consists of turkey, mashed potatoes, corn and peas, sweet potatoes, stuffing, rolls and dessert.
Jim Yeske, the lead organizer of this year's 15th annual Thanksgiving dinner, said the dinner is not just for the homeless or poor. Many elderly who are unable to cook large dinners or find themselves without family with whom to spend the holiday are also frequent attendees each year.
"We have a woman well in her 90s who will bring two candles, light them, and say, 'Whoever wants to sit and eat with me is my family today,'" Yeske said. "Another elderly lady tells us each year that she just can't get around and cook and so she asks us to deliver meals to her each year."
He said the dinners are made possible through donations from stores such as Sweetbay, Cash and Carry Smart Foodservice and area Publix stores. The church also receives all leftover baked goods to use for the dinners from Publix.
In the few hours before midnight on Wednesday, one parish room fills up with cakes, pies and bread along with other donated items slated to be delivered with the rest of the meals.
The estimated number of those who will be fed today by the church is 930 to 950 people.
Yeske said the group also delivers meals to all area shelters along with on-duty firefighters and sheriff deputies.
This is the eighth year Yeske has participated in the church's Thanksgiving feast — having gotten involved along with his wife after he felt they were missing what the holiday is all about.
"It seemed like we'd have all this work go into a meal, the family would come over for a few hours and leave," Yeske said. "But here we have people who need these meals or even a place to be this Thanksgiving.
"That's what the holiday is all about."