The Rotary Club of Lehigh Acres is at it again this year a free Thanksgiving dinner to all people in the community.
"It's become a great tradition to serve all the people who come out to eat on Thanksgiving Day," said Mike Buff, a spokesman with the club who is overseeing the free dinner for the Rotary and its 34 members.
It's being held again at St. Raphael's Church on Lee Boulevard and the dinner begins at 11 a.m. and continues until 2 p.m. The meal is served in the parish hall.
Started several years ago by Lisa Goehle, when she was the director of a social services agency in Lehigh, the free dinner has continued for more years than most can remember. But Buff said the Rotary has been preparing the dinners for six years and believes that the dinner had been held for six years prior to that. The Rotary Club and its members and lots and lots of volunteers in the community make it all possible. And so do those who have donated money and/or food to the Rotary Club to make it all possible.
Thanksgiving is Nov. 22, the fourth Thursday of the month, as designated by law by the late President Franklin Roosevelt. Before then, people couldn't agree on what day Thanksgiving should be observed.
"The dinner is free again to the community," Buff said. "It's for everybody including those who are living alone and have no place to go for Thanksgiving dinner and for friends to meet and eat together and for families of all sizes to come and enjoy the day.
"They don't even have to clean up afterwards, not unless they want to volunteer to help," Buff laughed. We have plenty of volunteers to cook and to serve up the food. But if there are those who want to become a volunteer, just ask when you come in to the parish hall at St. Raphael's Church on Lee Blvd. across from the Lehigh Walmart.
"We'll find something for you to do. Several teenagers, many are children of the Rotary Club members and others are children of the volunteers, come every year to help out and we appreciate that help," Buff said.
Several hundred people usually attend the dinner. Buff said they are preparing to cook for around 500 people this year.
The cooking of the 28 turkeys begins on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. There are potatoes to peel and stuffing to make plus the cooking of vegetables. There will be many pies and other goodies for dessert filling a long table.
While the event has been free for the many years of the Community Thanksgiving Dinner, there is a wishing well container in the lobby where diners can donate if they want to help out. However, Buff insisted that the dinner is free to everyone in Lehigh.
In about four weeks, the Rotary Club does it all again on Christmas Day. Many are the same volunteers and others are new. In addition to turkey, there is usually ham. The times are the same from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Buff said.