Thanksgiving banquet effort of volunteers

Daily Journal

Today is Thanksgiving, and for most of us that means sitting down at a dinner table at home or with relatives and friends and sharing a big meal.

The menu is likely to include turkey, dressing, side dishes and drinks.

According to Megan Gambino, in an article published by Smithsonian in 2011, the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving meal would have included wild game: duck or goose, turkey and venison. The stuffing likely was made from onions, herbs, and chestnuts or beechnuts. Corn and squash were plentiful, as were eels, lobster, clams and mussels.

The Wampanoag people knew the land and ocean well, sharing their food and methods with the Pilgrims.

No wheat flour for bread or pie crust existed. Cranberries were around, but it would be 50 years before someone thought to boil them with sugar and water. And there would have been no potatoes — white or sweet. They had not been introduced to North America at that time.

So in our age of efficient transportation and large farms, we can enjoy a traditional holiday meal regardless of location or calendar.

But for many Johnson County residents, having that meal with family and friends is difficult if not impossible. To remedy that, the Johnson County Thanksgiving Banquet is planned for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today in Scott Hall at the Johnson County fairgrounds in Franklin.

There is no charge. All you have to do is show up and be willing to share a holiday meal with scores of new friends.

But the banquet would not have been possible without the assistance of a small army of volunteers. And in the spirit of the day, we give thanks for their efforts.

We start with LaTheda Noonan, who helped found the meal and directed it from its inception. Long a leader in the county’s social safety net, she helped develop the dinner as just another piece in her efforts to serve the needy. She is stepping down this year, so if you see her today, please thank her all that she has done.

Next we want to thank local restaurateur Richard Goss. He has volunteered to coordinate the dinner. Without his offer of leadership, the tradition might have died.

Next, we wish to acknowledge and thank the police officers, firefighters, ambulance crews and hospital personnel who are giving up their holiday at home so that the rest of us can enjoy the day.

Finally, we give thanks for the scores of volunteers who make the banquet possible. There are cooks, dessert makers, servers, cleanup crews and hospitality personnel. Plus there are the hundreds of people who donated money and products to make the meal possible.

Whether you’re celebrating at home or at the fairgrounds, working or volunteering, we say: Happy Thanksgiving.

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The Johnson County Thanksgiving Banquet is a large undertaking.

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Without the efforts of scores of volunteers and hundreds of donors, the community meal would not be possible.