November 22, 2011 | 08:54 AMTammy Holder has fond memories of festive and food-filled Thanksgivings from childhood and now with a family of her own.
On Thursday, Tammy, her husband Wally, and their two boys Mason and Miles, hope to bring their enjoyment of Thanksgiving to people who typically may not experience the tradition.
Instead of sitting down with their family this Thursday, the Holders will join about 40 volunteers who are expecting to work at First Evangelical Lutheran Church's first free Thanksgiving Day meal, open to anyone who may be unemployed, homeless, alone or in need.
"Despite what you think you have or don't have, there are many people out there who have so much less," Tammy said. "I think it's important that people give. Give of your time and let people know there are others out there thinking about them and caring about them."
The meal, which is scheduled to be served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the church, 1101 Logan St., will be traditional Thanksgiving, including a total of 32 turkeys being cooked. There also will be children's activities, a television to watch football and games with small prizes.
Fifty-year church member and Lake Geneva resident Ken Schneider, his wife and three daughters also will be joining in to give back.
"We have thought about doing something like this and we are just thankful to be able to help other people," Schneider said. "We read about these kinds of dinners in Milwaukee and wanted to help, but this will give us the opportunity to do it right here. We thought, we are so fortunate and have so much, but there are people alone out there."
Esther Humphrey also will be at the church to help all day and she said she is looking forward to the event.
"I like to do service work, which is what our church is about," she said. "I am interested to do what I can to help out."
But, it's church member Margie Smith who is the ringleader for the meal. She said she has been gaining steam during the past couple weeks.
The idea came about a while ago, Smith said. The church held food drives, but they occurred after Thanksgiving, more for the Christmas season.
"I thought about the people who wouldn't have food for Thanksgiving, so we started doing the drive before," she said. "Then, we thought about doing it on a larger scale with dinners we cooked and they would pick them up. But, I knew we could do bigger so I wanted to do this."
When she first proposed the idea, Smith admitted some were in shock because the dinner would be on Thanksgiving Day.
"But, there also was an understanding that there was a real need for this," Smith said. "As far as volunteers, we were just flooded with them, including people who aren't even a part of our parish."
The enthusiasm picked up even more with donations, including big help from Piggly Wiggly, Farmland, the Lake Geneva Pie Company and Talmer Bank, among others.
Humphrey said although she has no idea how many people will show up, expectations are high.
"I thought this would start out easy, but now I've been told to plan for 200," she said. "We are prepared for a lot of folks."
Smith said the 32 turkeys set up to feed about 300 people.
Humphrey also expects a festive mood with people, games, music, decorations and fun.
"Our church has been working very diligently and is very enthusiastic," she said.
Smith said the outpouring of help from the Lake Geneva community has been nothing short of amazing.
"It wasn't hard at all, people really want to help," Smith said.
Hopes for the special day
"Thanksgiving is a big deal for me," Tammy Holder said. "I have great memories of Thanksgiving growing up, the family getting together and talking. Food rally brings people together and I hope some people struggling that coming together on Thanksgiving Day can be a comfort."
She said she's thought about what the day might be like.
"I hope it is a big family dinner — sitting all together and talking, enjoying a warm meal, watching the game," she said. "That's what we are all hoping it will be."
"I picture it like a big, family, crazy Thanksgiving with kids over there coloring, bingo and guys sitting and watching the Packers game cheering them on," Smith said.
But whatever the number of people who attend, Smith said she won't be disappointed.
"Based on a religious standpoint and faith, it is whatever the Lord decides to send us, it is up to him," Smith said. "It is an outreach mission and we reach out to people, so he is ultimately in charge of this. It will be what he wants us to have."
Smith said she has just one goal.
"If we can make one family, one lonely person happy, it is all worth it to me," she said. "I want to make somebody else feel better — for one day anyway."
Leading up to this event, Smith was already talking about how much fun it would be to have a similar event for Christmas.
What about Thanksgiving?
For the Holders, their Thanksgiving Day dinner will be at the church.
Wally Holder said his family eats most of its meals together, so to him, it's important other people have that chance.
"We eat together as a family every night and we are blessed to be able to do that," Wally said. "I don't mind giving up that for one day."
Schneider said while he and the girls are helping, the son-in-laws will be cooking dinner, which will be held a little later after they return from the church, around 5 or 6 p.m.
Humphrey said with her husband hunting, They held Thanksgiving a week early.
Smith said she and the children will spend their Thanksgiving at the church. Her husband also is hunting, so he will not be around anyway.