EDMOND — The smell of turkey and dressing lingered Thursday through the halls of the Nigh University Center at the University of Central Oklahoma as people entered one by one, eager to sit down and have a meal at the annual Edmond Community Thanksgiving Dinner.
Mike Laska, of Edmond, is one of the dinner's founders. He said he is delighted to see it reach its 30th year in the community.
“The most important part is not the food. It's people coming together for food, friendship, fellowship and service,” he said.
The dinner began in 1981 when Frank and Pat Paradise decided they needed a new location to host Thanksgiving dinner for friends and family, so they moved it to the First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Laska said.
He said the family invited everyone to join them, and over time, they did. The dinner has grown each year since then with more volunteers and meals served.
“In 30 years, I've yet to see someone not coming a second time,” he said. “You can't beat it.”
A growing gathering
Judy Langdon, 62, of Edmond, is also one of the founders. She said she has been excited to see it grow each year. The first gathering was somewhat of a small group, and it grew to 200 people the next year and 500 the year after that, she said.
“It makes me happy to see people being fed. Not just physically but emotionally,” she said. “It's for people who have nowhere else to go.”
This year, Laska said about 650 people volunteered to clean, cook and serve from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday. He said the goal was to provide at least 3,000 meals. As of 11 a.m. Thursday, the group already had made 433 home food deliveries.
Making a difference
Kathryn Bernard, 39, of Edmond, said this is her second year to volunteer for the dinner with her daughter, Daelyn. She said it's a good way for both of them to be active in the community.
Daelyn, 11, said she enjoys waiting on tables and taking people's orders. “It's fun. It's nice to know that I made a difference in the community,” she said.