APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) — Thanksgiving is a time of togetherness and family. But that’s a luxury many people don’t have, and an annual tradition is trying its best to fill the gap.
“It started with just a couple of families,” said Micah Neely, outreach director at Christ the Rock Church. “A couple of moms from our church making turkey dinners and giving it to those who need it. And it grew into something where we now serve 3,000 people in the community.”
In its 20th year, Christ the Rock Church’s annual free community meal has found a new home at the Grand Meridian, and they want guests to feel just as much of a sense of belonging as before.
“Whether we have a lot or we have need, we’re one community here and we can just spend time with one another and to be in relationship and to care,” he said.
Donations throughout the year make the whole day possible.
“Christ the Rock Church walks the walk,” said Mary Rauen of Appleton, who was enjoying a meal. “They do what churches should be doing.”
And more than 600 volunteers spend their time making it all run smoothly.
“It’s nice to be together as a family and have dinner, but to give back–to go and help those that would probably be alone–there’s so much satisfaction in that,” she said.
And making someone feel wanted goes a long way.
“Well, there are a lot of people that take it for granted, I think,” said Bruce Moriarty, a 12-year volunteer. “I know I did for many years. I just had a family and thought everybody did. And when I get involved with something like this, I realize just how lonely people can be and how alone some people can be.”
Some have made volunteering as much of a Thanksgiving tradition as, well, food.
“It’s not just about us. It’s about helping others,” he said. “And if we can serve our community and be that conduit of love and concern, and share some food and an experience with people, that’s what we love to do.”
Currently, Christ the Rock Church plans to stay with the Grand Meridian in the future.