By B.C. Manion
The aroma of roasted turkey wafting through the house and a gathering of family and friends – that’s what most people conjure when they look ahead to Thanksgiving.
High unemployment and rampant foreclosures, however, have dimmed that happy image.
It’s no surprise that people and organizations in the Central Pasco, Eastern Pasco and Northern Hillsborough communities are willing to help people in their time of need. These generous souls help others all of the time, especially during the holidays.
But this year, the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel is going beyond its usual delivery of holiday meals to people in need.
This Thanksgiving the group will debut its Turkey Gobble, an event that some hope will become an annual tradition.
Dan Byrne, Joanne Showalter and Poky Pocorobba are the key organizers of the event that will serve turkey dinners with all of the fixin’s from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving at the Dairy Queen at 27328 SR 54 in Wesley Chapel. The meals will be served until they run out. To make a reservation for a meal, call (813) 991-9767.
The dinners will be served to people who are hungry, homeless and in need, Byrne said.
After they finish their meal, diners will be able to top it off with a nice Pumpkin Pie Blizzard, said Byrne, who owns the Dairy Queen.
Event organizers hope to create a warm and welcoming ambience, Byrne said. “We are going to treat this with as much dignity as we can.”
About two dozen members of the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel are expected to volunteer that day, serving dinners paid for by the club and other contributors and prepared by Metropolitan Ministries.
Sweetbay Supermarket has volunteered to keep the dinners warm until they are served, Byrne said.
Club members also will deliver some meals to disabled people or shut-ins, who are unable to attend the event, Byrne added.
About 20 businesses have banded together to support the Turkey Gobble, said Showalter, who is customer service manager at Heritage Ford.
Other donations have come from individual Rotary Club members and from patrons at the Dairy Queen, who have dropped coins or dollar bills into a collection jar.
The event is needed, particularly in this tough economy – which has people homeless and has forced children to go hungry, Byrne and Showalter said.
“It’s just sad,” Showalter said.
The Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel is just one example of the community’s big heart. Harvester United Methodist Church, 2432 Collier Parkway in Land O’ Lakes, held a food drive to help families in need, said Pastor Sam Maihack.
“As a church, we believe we’re on earth as God’s children, to help people who are in need,” Maihack said. ”You have got to start with where people are at – we want them to experience God’s love.”
In Zephyrhills and a portion of Dade City, the people receiving dinners from Meals on Wheels East Pasco, Inc., will be receiving a turkey dinner with all the fixins’.
Well, almost all of the fixins’ said Ann Babbitt, administrative assistant for the organization. “The only thing they don’t get is whipped cream on the pie. That doesn’t hold up well,” she said. The cost of the dinners is being covered by the Daybreak Rotary Club of Zephryhills.
The Lutz Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club made donations to Christian Social Services in Land O’ Lakes to help pay for some Thanksgiving baskets, said Marilyn Wannamaker, a woman’s club member.
Christian Social Services will distribute about 100 food baskets to families in need, said Jacquie Petet, executive director. The organization buys the food baskets for $30 each from Share Food Network. Each basket has a frozen turkey, fresh vegetables and canned foods.
The social service organization is glad to help brighten Thanksgiving, but the needs go far beyond annual holiday baskets, Petet said.
The Thanksgiving basket will provide a meal and some leftovers, Petet observed.
“The need is there seven days of the week,” Petet said.
How to help
— Those wishing to volunteer or to contribute donations or who wish to inquire about meal deliveries for the Turkey Gobble may call Joanne Showalter at (813) 907-7800.
— Those wishing to contribute for Thanksgiving or Christmas baskets through the Christian Social Services may send donations to the Christian Social Services, attention: Share the Season, P.O. Box 783, Land O’Lakes, Fl., 34639.
— Those wishing to contribute canned goods for the food pantry at Christian Social Services can drop off their donations at 5514 Land O’ Lakes Blvd. in Land O’ Lakes.
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