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First community Thanksgiving dinner serves over 1,000

  • The Pavilion of the City of Marion was the site for the first communitywide Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. This behind-the-scenes look at the food prep area shows just how much effort is required for such a benevolent affair that was ready to serve up to 3,000 guests. The event was sponsored by The City of Marion along with Heaven's Kitchen Marion, a community mission lead by the Diederich Foundation and the Fowler Bonan Foundation. 

    The Pavilion of the City of Marion was the site for the first communitywide Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. This behind-the-scenes look at the food prep area shows just how much effort is required for such a benevolent affair that was ready to serve up to 3,000 guests. The event was sponsored by The City of Marion along with Heaven's Kitchen Marion, a community mission lead by the Diederich Foundation and the Fowler Bonan Foundation. 
    Ceasar Maragni photo

  • Cups of ice cream from La Galeria were a big hit at the first communitywide Marion Thanksgiving dinner held at the Pavilion Thursday.

    Cups of ice cream from La Galeria were a big hit at the first communitywide Marion Thanksgiving dinner held at the Pavilion Thursday.
    Ceasar Maragni photo

  • Jeff Goffinet delivers two Thanksgiving dinners to diners Thursday. Goffinet was among the small army of volunteers who helped out at the communitywide Thanksgiving dinner.

    Jeff Goffinet delivers two Thanksgiving dinners to diners Thursday. Goffinet was among the small army of volunteers who helped out at the communitywide Thanksgiving dinner.
    Ceasar Maragni photo

  • Agustin Duran, left, Sen. Dale Fowler, center, and Jeff Diederich discuss last minute plans before serving began Thursday at the first communitywide Thanksgiving dinner.

    Agustin Duran, left, Sen. Dale Fowler, center, and Jeff Diederich discuss last minute plans before serving began Thursday at the first communitywide Thanksgiving dinner.
    Ceasar Maragni photo

  • Kaitie Done provided live vocals accompanied by her mother, Holly Kee, on the keyboard at the Thanksgiving dinner Thursday. Done is a Johnston City native who currently resides in Belleville.

    Kaitie Done provided live vocals accompanied by her mother, Holly Kee, on the keyboard at the Thanksgiving dinner Thursday. Done is a Johnston City native who currently resides in Belleville.
    Ceasar Maragni photo

  • Marion pastor John Holst of Marion's United Church of Christ gave the opening prayer prior to the Thanksgiving dinner Thursday.

    Marion pastor John Holst of Marion's United Church of Christ gave the opening prayer prior to the Thanksgiving dinner Thursday.
    Ceasar Maragni photo

 
BY HOLLY KEE
hkee@localsouthernnews.com
Posted on 12/4/2019, 4:14 PM

MARION -- When Jeff Diederich and his team of organizers began planning for a community Thanksgiving Dinner, they weren't sure about the number of guests.

"We decided to prepare for 3,000," said Diederich, whose Diederich Foundation, along with the Bonan Fowler Foundation and the City of Marion teamed up with several local businesses to stage the event.

A steady stream of diners filtered through The Pavilion Thursday evening, enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving menu as well as entertainment.

"We served 1,127 meals," said Diederich.

Even though that number was less than expected Diederich is very happy with the outcome.

"I think now that people have experienced it, it will grow," he said.

Cody Moake agrees.

"I thought it was excellent," said Moake, who is Chief of Staff for Marion Mayor Mike Absher, who volunteered to work on a serving team for the event.

"For this being the first year it exceeded expectations," he said. "It gives up something to grow on."

Moake said the city is "definitely on board for next year."

In fact, Diederich is already planning for that event.

He and Moake agreed that an earlier start will help.

"This just came together in a month," said Moake. "That just adds to the impressiveness of the event. Jeff did a great job of dotting the Is and crossing the Ts and getting the teams together.

Diederich said organization was the key to the success, as well as community involvement.

"I had everything organized," he said. "But having so many volunteers come forward and the local businesses and organizations that stepped up to help made everything possible."

Diederich said for next year's event he will coordinate with various nursing homes, social service agencies, and shelters.

"I can completely see our volume double as the news spreads," he said.

He also pointed out that having several area restaurants step up to help with the "round up" was invaluable.

Local restaurants including Bennie's, Tequila's, Walt's, KB's BBQ, 20's Hideout Steakhouse, The Vault, and La Fiesta offered patrons an option to "round up" their bill to the nearest dollar, with proceeds helping to offset the cost of the dinner.

The city donated the use of The Pavilion and staff. The Marion Elk's Lodge 800 prepared the turkeys. Club VIP DJ provided sound and entertainment along with Philip Fritts and Kaitie Done.

Rides Mass Transit ran shuttle service to and from the venue. Sprehe Family Foundation provided decorations for the event.

Pepsi MidAmerica provided beverages and La Galeria Mexican Cuisine & Creamery provided ice cream during the event.

Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) worked with Diederich on the event. "This is what we wanted when we started Heaven's Kitchen," he told the crowd at the dinner. "It's about coming together in fellowship."

Diederich said that nothing went to waste.

"We froze some that will be used at Heaven's Kitchen Marion this week," he said. "We also donated food to some local shelters."

Diederich said he is pleased with the event and is already working on next year's dinner.