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Holiday banquet moving forward: Donations rescue county's annual Thanksgiving meal

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One month after organizers worried they didn’t have enough money for the county’s annual Thanksgiving banquet, residents have given enough to save the meal.

In fact, organizers received so many donations they’re already purchasing supplies for next year’s meal, organizer LaTheda Noonan said.

Now Johnson County Banquets Inc. will be able to feed turkey, ham, potatoes and corn to the 800 people it’s expecting Thursday without any problem, Noonan said.

“The food is still going to be good, and the company is still going to be good. So come on down,” Noonan said.

Earlier this fall, organizers weren’t as optimistic about whether they could host the banquet.

About $8,000 — or $10 a plate — was needed to cover the cost of the food as well as pots, pans, plates and other supplies. Johnson County Banquets has been hosting the Thanksgiving meal since 2008, when 400 people arrived for the meal, and hadn’t previously had any problems raising what it needed, Noonan said.

The meal is open for free to any residents looking for a place to gather and is also meant to ensure people and families who would have trouble affording everything that typically goes into Thanksgiving dinner have a nice holiday meal.

The number of residents who attend has been going up, especially as food prices rise and the elderly and people on fixed incomes have to cut other expenses.

Last month, $2,500 had been raised for the meal, less than half of what was needed. The drop in donations likely came because the economy made it difficult for businesses to contribute, and organizers began to wonder if they needed to cancel the banquet, Noonan said.

But after word of the fundraising shortfall spread, checks from residents started coming in. Four days later, Noonan received 17 checks totaling more than $1,000, and since then contributions have continued to come in, she said.

“How amazing that (residents) have come through, every single year for us. And we cannot say how much appreciation we have for that. There are no words,” she said.

Johnson County Banquets gathered enough money that they’ve begun buying food carriers and pots and have paid their storage bill, all for next year.

These are all expenses Noonan expects to rise over the next year, and being able to pay for them now saves money for next year’s banquet, she said.

“We’re getting some of the staples that we need that would be extra money next year,” she said.

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