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Serving the community: Holiday meal draws crowd

November 29, 2017
By ERIC DeVAUX ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Many Lehigh Acres residents had the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their community.

The Lehigh Acres Rotary Club hosted its 11th Annual Thanksgiving Community Meal on Nov. 23 at St. Raphael Catholic Church. The event is a tradition in Lehigh, as well as free and open to the public.

An hour into the dinner, expectations were already exceeding with about 300 attendees.

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Volunteers serve guests at the 11th Annual Thanksgiving Community Meal on Nov. 23 at St. Raphael Catholic Church.

"An hour into it, we're probably ahead of last year's (total)," Rotarian Mike Buff, chairman of the event, said.

Buff saw many of the same faces, but also many new faces.

"Both people coming in and volunteers," he said.

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Buff estimated that there were approximately 50 volunteers were helping. Club members and volunteers had been preparing for the dinner for over a week.

"We got pretty much everything done," Buff said.

He explained that all the turkeys were cooked from Tuesday morning to Wednesday afternoon.

"We sliced them, put them in pans and we reheated them this morning," Buff said.

All that required taste tests.

"We were tasting them the whole time," he said, jokingly.

Stuffing, beans, sweet potatoes and pies were cooked and served.

"We had a couple of folks bring in some pies," Buff said. "The Rotary Club buys those, as well. We had 40 pies."

The organizers try to make sure that everyone is fed and happy.

"No hungry people leave," he said. "We want the volunteers to serve people, but we want volunteers to notice people who are alone and sit down and just chat."

Many volunteers came from the community to share their Thanksgiving time with the guests.

"We're part of the community and this helps out the community," volunteer Mark Berry said. "We like to pay forward, give back to friends. We see a lot of people here we have helped and worked alongside during Irma cleanup."

He added that it was his third year volunteering for the dinner.

"We wanted to start a tradition," Berry said of his family.

Diner Tim Genovese explained that he attends for the food and the social interaction.

"The food is out of this world," he said.

Genovese said he also likes to people watch at the event.

"When I'm done eating - I just like to sit and watch people come in, people that I know, people that I have served myself," he said, explaining that he volunteers for other events in the community.



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