When they first started hosting free Thanksgiving dinners 17 years ago, volunteers at St. Paul Lutheran Church served 165 people.
These days, that number has swelled to more than 1,800.
The annual Thanksgiving community dinner – 7th Street Feast – will take place once again next week from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Paul Lutheran School, 320 N. 7th St.
Joey Denney, one of the coordinators of the annual event, said there will be approximately 900 people who will eat at the school or request a carry-out meal and about 900 more who will take advantage of the delivery service.
For more information about free transportation, call Veterans Cab at 913-682-7200.
People who would like to have a meal delivered to their home can call 913-290-0527.
More than 300 volunteers will be cooking, serving, delivering or cleaning up at the meal on Thanksgiving.
“It would be tough without them. No. It would be impossible without them,” Denney said.
Denney said many of the volunteers work at the dinner for a few hours and then go home to have Thanksgiving with their families.
“But some people just like to stay all day and work,” he said.
Anyone who wants to volunteer for the dinner can call 913-682-0387.
Denney said attendees are grateful to get a free Thanksgiving meal.
“But the volunteers are just as grateful for the opportunity to work at an event like this,” Denney said.
John Goodlow and Mitzie Frietchen are also coordinators for the event, which is completely free and open to anyone.
“No strings attached,” said Denney. “If you want a meal, we will feed you. We’ve had homeless people come and eat and people who can easily afford a meal but they come because they just don’t want to be alone on Thanksgiving.”
The Thanksgiving meal will consist of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, cranberries, rolls, dessert and a beverage.
‘It’s a full meal,” said Denney.
Local churches and various agencies donate time and money to the Thanksgiving meal each year.
“It’s really a communitywide effort by the churches to feed people on Thanksgiving,” Denney said. “It’s just the satisfaction of serving our fellow man.”
Numerous churches are associated with the 7th Street Feast, including St. Paul Lutheran Church, Independent Baptist Church, Immaculate Conception/St. Joseph Catholic Church, Pilgrim Community Church, First Presbyterian Church, Trinity United Methodist Church, St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, First United Methodist Church and Wallula Christian Church.
Other participating churches include Sacred Heart/St. Casimir Catholic Church, Bethel AME Church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, First Christian Church and Shiloh Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Other entities participating will be the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Household of Faith, Fort Leavenworth Protestant Chapel and Saint Mary University Campus Ministry.
Harvest Christian Center, 616 Grand Ave., will be giving out 100 free turkeys beginning at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Unity in the Community will be having a free Thanksgiving meal at 5 p.m. Nov. 24.
The free community event will take place at the Youth Achievement Center, 314 Delaware St.