Organizers of the annual Johnson County Thanksgiving Banquet have plans to feed more than 800 people at this year’s event. But serving more than 50 turkeys, pounds of mashed potatoes and dozens of pies is going to take a communitywide effort.

Preparations already have started for the annual banquet, a free Thanksgiving meal open to everyone in the community. Organizers have been meeting since July to get ready; and with about five weeks left before the event, they are asking for help in the form of volunteers and donations.

“It is a community-building event. It lets people know there’s more than just living in the same area to community,” said Richard Goss, chairman of the banquet.

“We want them to know that there are people interested in serving other county residents who are in need.”

The banquet has been a Thanksgiving staple for the county since 2008, when church and civic leaders envisioned a healing event to help the ailing community following that summer’s devastating floods.

About 600 meals were served that first year.

In the years that followed, as the economy weakened, more people needed help, and the number of meals served has grown every year.

“Through the nine-year history, we’ve had good turnouts and ever-increasing attendance, so we know how much this means to the community,” Goss said.

This is Goss’ first time leading the banquet from the start.

He took over as chairman last year, after longtime chairwoman LaTheda Noonan stepped down due to health issues a month before the event.

With a full year to get ready, the process has been less chaotic this time around, Goss said.

Organizers have launched a website where people can volunteer or donate online. They also have started a fund with the Johnson County Community Foundation, which has allowed donations to come in throughout the year and eased the burden of fundraising.

“Usually we would start asking for donations a few months before, and there was a big scramble for cash,” Goss said.

“But this will be there all year. We’re already seeing that pay off for us.”

The banquet committee also has partnered with Johnson County Senior Services to better reach homebound residents who otherwise might not have a meal.

Senior services has been posting notices and sign-up sheets in apartment complexes and homes where they regularly work with clients, to ensure that people who need food are getting it.

“We were concerned we weren’t reaching all of them, so they’re helping us from that standpoint,” Goss said.

Tracking the growth of the banquet over nearly a decade, organizers are planning for an increase of 10 percent more meals served this year, Goss said.

That makes donations vital as the event approaches.

More than 300 people are needed to put the banquet on, Goss said.

Volunteers are given shifts of an hour or 1½ hours, helping do everything from seat people to clear tables to clean up afterward.

“They only need to put in a short time,” Goss said.

“Then they’re welcome to stay for Thanksgiving dinner if they’d like.”

At a glance

Johnson County Thanksgiving Banquet

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 26

Where: Scott Hall, Johnson County fairgrounds.

What: A full turkey dinner will be served free of charge. Delivery to homebound residents will also be available.

How to help: If you are interested in volunteering or would like to register for homebound delivery, please call 662-0199 and leave a message. Volunteers can also e-mail

Donations can be received through PayPal at, or by cash or check sent to Johnson County Banquets, P.O. Box 207, Franklin, IN 46131

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.