By TRAVIS MORSE
MT. VERNON — — Nearly 900 people turned up Thursday for the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner hosted by Central Christian Church.
The event, in its 17th year, not only helps the less fortunate but gives the public a chance to come together on a very special holiday, said Julie Bumpus of Mt. Vernon, who attended Thursday's dinner.
“It's a community thing,” Bumpus said. “I think it's a good idea for people to get around each other, get to know each other. I mean, we all live in the same community.”
This year's event was held at the District 80 Primary Center due to ongoing construction at the church.
Roughly 160 volunteers helped out Thursday with church activities, said organizer Steve Reynolds, the hospitality ministry leader at the church.
Reynolds pointed out that the free dinner benefits a wide variety of people — from those who have fallen on hard times to those who just want to spend time with others on Thanksgiving.
“There's a large group of people out there that either don't have any place to go for the holiday or maybe they're down and out of a job and are just hungry,” Reynolds said. “We're just here to supply a need for the day, making sure that everyone has plenty of food to eat, and be there to share some conversation with.”
Raymond Tucker of Mt. Vernon said he attends the annual dinner regularly and hopes the tradition continues.
“I think it's a good thing for the community, everybody getting together celebrating the holiday,” Tucker said.
Thursday's dinner included turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, dressing, vegetables, rolls and also a selection of pies.
“They do a really good job on the meal and everything,” said Lisa Leek of Mt. Vernon, who attended the event.
But the meal at the Primary Center was not the only church activity that day.
Also on Thursday, church members delivered dinners for the Jefferson County Meals on Wheels program, local fire and police departments and to Lifeboat Alliance.
In addition, the church brought meals to the homes of elderly, disabled and homebound people. All in all, about 400 meals were delivered, Reynolds said.
One of the volunteers Thursday was Amanda McNear, who works at the Armed Forces Reserve Center. She said Central Christian Church is doing great things for Mt. Vernon.
Last year, McNear said she referred several veterans to the church because they didn't have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving.
“Just knowing that this church has that type of atmosphere to help within the community and then they'll reach out to anyone,” McNear said.