Annual event to be offered in drive-thru, grab-and-go style
A long-standing tradition for the Lehigh Acres community is continuing this year, but with one slight modification — the Free Thanksgiving Community Meal will be served in a drive thru, grab-and-go style.
The annual event will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thanksgiving day, Thursday, Nov, 26, in front of the parish hall of St. Raphael’s Catholic Church, 2514 Lee Blvd. There are no reservations required; individuals just show up during the time frame the event is being offered.
Rotary Club of Lehigh Acres Dinner Chairperson Fred Elliott said the dinner, which has been held for 14 years, typically consists of a dinning room experience, complete with a buffet-style, sit-down Thanksgiving meal with drinks and desserts in the parish hall.
“We have turned it into a drive- thru pickup event,” Elliott said, which is what the church and the club felt most comfortable with during this time with COVID-19. “Our club does a handful of signature events and this is one of them. We look forward to it.”
The prep for the Thanksgiving Community Meal begins a couple days before the event. Members from the club, as well as volunteers from the church, the community and the East Lee County High School Interact Club, all work together to make the event a success.
He said they will stage the vehicles that come to the event, which is made possible due to the church having a big parking lot where they are able to coordinate people safely in and out.
The food, as usual, will be prepared in the parish hall kitchen, complete with prepping 28 to 30 turkeys, each around 20 pounds, as well as all of the sides.
“Although the event may look a little different, the menu of delicious food will be the same,” he said.
Elliott said when attendees come close to the front of the building, a volunteer will deliver the to go boxes right to their car.
“The meal comes right out of the kitchen . . . a hot turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, all served to go,” he said, adding that the dinners can also be warmed up later. “Last year we served 700-plus. We will prepare for that (this year.) In the past we have never run out of food. We will do our best to serve everybody that comes through to pick up a meal that day.”
There will be a Wishing Well set up in the drive-thru, if attendees wish to make a donation.
“Nobody has to pay for anything. We enjoy doing this for the community and it has become very successful for us,” Elliott said, adding that no one should feel bad if they are not able to contribute. “‘Free’ is the magic word, but there are those who insist that they donate money to the Wishing Well. We appreciate those that do.”
Those who were able to donate money to the Wishing Well last year helped in funding the turkeys, hams and other ingredients for this year’s dinner.