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Volunteers serve up a helping of Thanksgiving dinner with a side of love (7 photos)

'I'm giving thanks for these people at St. James' that do so many things for people,' said diner

They came, they dined and they said their collective thanks.

They were the 102 people who had a hearty turkey dinner with all the fixings at the first of two sittings held today at St. James’ Anglican Church.

“I go to church here,” said Rilla Beard, an Orillia senior. “I heard the church was putting on a free dinner, so I came with a friend who lives in my building.”

She said she and her friends believe in the help that the church gives to people, through their dinners on Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as their weekly loonie lunches.

“My family live elsewhere, so I came here to have a family dinner that I wouldn’t have had if I’d stayed at home,” noted Beard, adding she was giving thanks for the food and the companionship of others, which she acknowledged is far better than sitting alone at home.

That was also why Lois Cullis came out to the 11:30 a.m. sitting today.

“I’m giving thanks for these people at St. James’ that do so many things for people,” she said.

For many years, the Orillia resident said, her family met at the Nottawasaga Inn Resort in Alliston. As times changed, she said, some of the older people weren’t able to come out. So, family or friends would invite her over to spend Thanksgiving with them.

This year, she didn’t receive any invitations, until a friend mentioned the church dinner.

Cullis and dozens of others enjoyed the turkey dinner served with various vegetables, followed by an assortment of pies, with ice cream.

The dinner was all about camaraderie and fellowship for most people.

“I come here every Wednesday for the Loonie Lunch,” said Greg Shortell. “I enjoy it here. They’re very friendly here and there’s lots of food.”

The Orillia resident came to the Thanksgiving dinner with his wife and sister.

“We come here for the sociability,” said Shortell. “My wife and I live by ourselves, and it would be no good cooking a big meal for just two.”

He said he likes getting together with others and to give thanks for the many blessings in life, such as being born a Canadian, being married, for having food and for life, in general.

More than 30 volunteers of all ages helped out on the day.

“It’s just to give back to the community,” said Carter Gillette, 12, who spends his Thanksgiving with his parents, siblings and grandparents, eating a turkey dinner and playing games. “It’s just helping everyone out and making sure they have a hot meal to eat like everyone else.”

Several volunteer crews put in time to organize the two church meals over two weeks, said Wilf Trivett, who was in charge of the kitchen for the day.

“This is like an inherited job,” he said. “My father used to do the men’s breakfast for more than 35 years, and then he died and passed it along to me.”

Trivett said he has been cooking the men’s breakfast meal for about a decade now.

“I’ll cook anytime that I’m asked to do it,” he said. “It’s because I can. You’re doing a good deed, that’s all.”

But Trivett said he couldn’t have done it without the coordinated efforts of all those who pitched in. Over two weeks, various crew members came in to prepare the turkeys, which were cooked on Friday and carved on Saturday.

Other volunteer teams came together to peel the vegetables and prepare them for the big meal, he said.

“I’m thankful for these people helping me,” said Trivett. “One person can’t do this alone. You need a team of people doing this to make it all come together.”

Joan Gardy, the parish member who was also the dinner coordinater, said this has become a popular meal even though it’s only in its second year.

“We gave out 220 tickets to places like the Lighthouse, Youth Centre, and Salvation Army,” she said, adding proudly that they were all gone by mid-September.

“We had 23 walk-ins (today) and no one was turned away,” said Gardy.

The community comes together splendidly to help out, she said. Bayshore Property Management in Barrie donated the turkeys, and Jim Wilson donated the vegetables, which were bought at Country Produce.

Other donors gave money that went toward buying supplies for the dinner, said Gardy.