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Food, family and fun – delivered as promised!  Yes, an army of volunteers, donors, musicians and patrons came together on November 21st to party at Rise’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner.   This year for the first time, in anticipation of a bigger crowd than last year’s feast, the venue was changed to the Hightstown Fire House on North Main St.  The usual dedicated volunteer organizers, Gail Zelenak and Phil Greene, in conjunction with Rise staffers, poured their time and energy into getting the event up to its usual high standards, not an easy task considering the sheer number of folks and logistics involved.

The Food….

Phil and Gail spent weeks contacting donors and coordinating food donations with pick up and delivery volunteers. Lifting and transporting those sixteen 23 pound gobblers required commitment and brawn.  Special thanks go out to the donors:  McCaffrey’s for turkeys, stuffing and gravy, Americana for rolls, sausage and peppers, Morgan’s Grill for cabbage, rice, beans and jerk chicken, Prestige Diner for turkey, stuffing, gravy and mashies, Manino’s 4 Pizza and Restaurant for baked ziti, City Streets for mashies and green beans, 12 Farms for mashies and veggies, Scotto’s for baked ziti and individual donors, Heidi Englebert and Karen Bell who provided desserts.  There were many more food donations from many more individuals.  Thanks to those unnamed heroes as well.

The Family…

Urban dictionary defines a family as: A group of people, usually of the same blood (but do not have to be), who genuinely love, trust, care about, and look out for each other. 

That pretty much perfectly defines all the folks who participated in the Thanksgiving feast. The nearly 50 volunteers, numerous donors and the family of community members who came to work, celebrate and feast together exemplified the best a family can be.  This is about as genuinely caring a group as can be found anywhere.  Dedicated, friendly and supportive of each other, our community came together in fellowship.  Yes, we are thankful for each other.

The Fun….

No party is complete without the entertainment which was also made possible by many generous donors and volunteers. The beautiful table décor was provided compliments of Meadow Lakes and Trader Joe’s deserves credit for providing a mammoth supply of flowers which was transformed into beautiful floral arrangements by volunteers Paola Delgado, Veronica Arrellano, Isabel Morocho and Sandra Samaniego.

Diners were welcomed and checked in by pilgrim, Pat Von Hippel and once seated, they were treated to dinner music provided for the gathering by Tony Zelenak.

Tony’s performance was followed by several other musical presentations. High School students, Claire Ernst sang and Emily Ng played the ukulele and sang.  In no time, the Mt. Olivet Church Choir, Rise Thanksgiving regulars, had everyone clapping along and the performance by the band, Apoldo 11, from Monroe Township High School, had everyone rockin’ well into the night.

The Forgotten….

Behind the scenes there are always folks who do the grunt work. They haul, they clean, they are unseen, but without them, the event couldn’t happen.  There were many such volunteers who dropped in to help set up and break down tables, Boy Scout Troop 59 and Home Depot volunteers for instance.  Crew 4385 helped serve throughout the evening with many other drop-in community volunteers.  Even though Rise rented the firehouse hall, the firehouse generously sent two volunteers (to make sure the newbies didn’t burn the place down …only joking or maybe not??? 😊), Bill Havens and Scott Pompier who spent the entire evening helping and providing welcome cooking, serving and clean up expertise. Many, many unnamed volunteers were in the kitchen getting the vittles from oven to table.  Somehow the kitchen chaos worked out surprisingly well!

The Ancient Order of the Hibernians deserve thanks for the donation of much needed funds which helped with everything from soup to nuts.

The Rise staffers contacted and coordinated volunteers, provided desserts, organized the floral work and many other untold tasks.

Great things don’t just happen in this world, but great things can and did happen at the Rise Thanksgiving Dinner when a community of committed people all came together in the spirit of thanks giving.

Families received a Turkey for Thanksgiving in 2017

Elderly and disabled received a Hot Meal for Thanksgiving in 2017

Community members enjoyed a Turkey feast on Thanksgiving Tuesday in 2017

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