VOLUNTEERS SIMON CHAN and Robin Schumacker prepare a turkey at StoneBridge Church on Sunday in preparation for the Findlay church’s annual Thanksgiving Day community meal. The meal is made possible through donations and the efforts of some 300 volunteers, and serves about 2,000 people annually through dine-in, drive-thru and delivery. (KEVIN BEAN/The Courier)

By BRENNA GRITEMAN
LIFE EDITOR

If you’re looking for a Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings but none of the mess, you could head over to the annual free community meal at StoneBridge Church.

Or, if you want to further simplify things, you can go to stonebridgechurch.org/events/thanksgiving, click the “place delivery orders here” link, and put your feet up. Sometime between about 10 a.m. and noon on Thanksgiving Day, your homecooked turkey dinners will arrive on your doorstep. (You can also call 419-422-6869 to request delivery.)

Just be sure to get your order in by noon Tuesday.

Stephanie Schack, children’s director at StoneBridge and a member of the Thanksgiving dinner committee, says there is no cost to partake in the annual Thanksgiving meal, be it in the comfort of your home or at the church. There is no stipulation to the number of dinners an online order can request, though delivery is limited to Findlay city limits.

Any tips that come in to volunteer delivery drivers or through the church drive-thru are poured “right back into making next year’s dinner bigger and better,” Schack says.

Already, the annual event has become “bigger and better” than organizers could have dreamed.

While the true history of the meal remains a bit of an urban legend, Schack says most agree that the Thanksgiving Day tradition originated at Red Lobster. As more and more people opted to gather at the Findlay restaurant rather than cooking their own meal, the diners soon outgrew the space. The diners briefly moved to another local church before settling at StoneBridge.

The meal has been housed at StoneBridge for about 15 years, though Schack is quick to point out that the effort is not limited to one congregation.

“Sure, we house it here … but it is truly a community effort. StoneBridge could not put this on by ourselves,” she says. “This is by all means the community’s meal. We’re just proud to host it.”

In keeping with the event’s origins, the meal remains open to the general public. Attendees need not be a member of the church or have a financial need for a free dinner. Diners can come simply because they want to keep their own kitchen tidy, or because they’re looking for some good company.

“No matter the reason … come be with us. We’ll be your family for the day,” Schack says.

Serving is from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with drive-thru available until 2.

Schack says past dinners have served an average of 2,000 plates — “give or take a few.” Organizers are prepared to serve up to 2,500, and even with such a hefty order, they don’t skimp on any of the details.

Committee members are aiming to cook 70 turkeys this year, and have 200 pounds of butter on hand. They’ll start cooking turkeys immediately after church services Sunday, with volunteers working night and day throughout the week to prepare ham and gravy, stuffing, potatoes, green beans, lemonade and more.

Much of the food is donated, and financial contributions from neighboring churches, service groups and families help provide for any additional needs.

The effort is made possible by about 300 volunteers of all ages, who lend a hand in any way possible. Some cook food ahead of time, while others volunteer on Thanksgiving Day to set up tables and serve food.

Schack says interested volunteers are welcome to call the church anytime this week, or can simply walk in on Thursday morning “and we will find a job for you.”

Donations of bread (loaves, rolls, biscuits, etc.) and desserts of all kinds (pie, cake, cookies, etc.) are also welcome through Thursday.

The church is at 2111 Stonehedge Drive on Findlay’s east side.

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