Daily Journal

Thanksgiving is a month away, but organizers of the annual Johnson County Thanksgiving Banquet are in the home stretch of their planning. But to feed the more than 800 people expected at this year’s event, dozens of county residents need to step up and help out.

The free holiday meal is open to everyone in the community, and everyone involved is a volunteer.

Richard Goss, chairman of the banquet, said: “It is a community-building event. It lets people know there’s more than just living in the same area to community. We want them to know that there are people interested in serving other county residents who are in need.”

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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. 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,” said Goss, who took over as chairman last year after longtime chairwoman LaTheda Noonan stepped down due to health issues.

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.

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.

Tracking the growth of the banquet over nearly a decade, organizers are planning for an increase of 10 percent more meals served this year. That makes donations vital as the event approaches.

More than 300 people are needed to put the banquet on. Volunteers are given shifts of an hour or 1½ hours, helping do everything from seat people to clear tables to clean up afterward.

We urge interested Johnson County residents to sign up to help this worthy local tradition. And the fringe benefits are delicious.

As Goss said: “(Volunteers) only need to put in a short time. Then they’re welcome to stay for Thanksgiving dinner if they’d like.”

At issue

The free Thanksgiving dinner has become a Johnson County tradition.

Our point

The dinner will succeed only if local residents step up and volunteer.

If you go

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 also will 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 turkeydinner@johnsoncountybanquets.org.

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