No one should be alone or hungry this holiday.
Volunteers said that's the idea behind efforts that will bring a Thanksgiving meal to several hundred people in the Toms River area this week, with special events filled with food and camaraderie, too.
Organizers to several Thanksgiving dinner events said they were driven to provide an option for individuals and families who otherwise couldn't afford it, or who had no where to go.
In Toms River, several organizations and businesses offer complimentary meals for individuals and families.
There's a Thanksgiving Eve meal starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Salvation Army, . (westbound side). Nancy McCorry, community outreach manager, said the meal takes the place of the organization's weekly Thursday meal. Some 120 diners are expected to savor a menu featuring traditional Thanksgiving dishes. All are welcome. Call 732-270-8393 for more information.
Another is on Thursday, Nov. 24, including the second-annual free Thanksgiving meal at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. Last year, Anita Eitzen-Jones proposed that her family has attended since 1969 open its doors on the holiday to people who don't have anywhere else to go.
“I'm very big on making sure everybody eats on Thanksgiving,” Eitzen-Jones said. “I don't think anybody should go hungry any day of the year. The congregation jumped on board big time.”
Eitzen-Jones, of Bayville, along with co-organizer Ian Ritchey of Brick and many other volunteers, expect to serve turkey with all the trimmings to about 300 people for this second annual meal. They'll include seniors; families facing hard times; single people; military families and others.
Eitzen-Jones said parishioners are donating cooked turkeys, plus she will roast several birds in the parish center kitchen.
“I believe it needs to smell like Thanksgiving,” she said. “I want people to feel like they are walking into a home. I want them to visit with us and know there's people out there who care about about them.”
Alongside turkey, diners will gobble down gravy, mashed and sweet potatoes, cole slaw and cranberry sauce, peas and corn, biscuits, pies and ice cream.
The center will be dressed up with festive decorations made by parishioners young and adult; another parishioner will entertain all on the keyboard; and yet another donated craft supplies and coloring books for kids to enjoy, Eitzen-Jones said.
Everyone is welcome from noon to 4 p.m. in the parish center, 1500 Hooper Ave., Toms River. Call the church at 732-255-4455 or Eitzen-Jones at 848-448-0383.
First United Methodist Church of Toms River, ., has been serving up a Thanksgiving meal open to all for more than 10 years, organizer and church member Roger Shapley said. It starts at 1 p.m. and lasts until everyone's been fed or the food runs out, he said. Call 732-349-8155 to reserve a spot.
Shapley said about 25 people turned out the first year; last year the number had swelled to about 80.
“We don't say no to anyone because they need a place to eat,” he said. Turkey, stuffing, sweet and mashed potatoes and a variety of vegetables are on the menu in the Family Life Center.
“I feel it is a blessing to do it, I really do,” Shapley said.
At least two local business also invite diners to partake in free meals. Cookie Cab, in downtown Toms River, is branching out from its usual baked goods to offer the traditional turkey dinner from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. It's a way to thank the community for supporting the re-opening of the adjacent said Kim Ratto, co-owner with Helen Harris.
“Anybody who wants to come,” Ratto said. “I have 120 pounds of turkey and 50 pounds of vegetables and stuffing. We'll serve until it's gone. This is our way of paying it forward.”
Call 732-244-0011 for more information.
C & G's Country Cafe, , hosts its second annual free dinner from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., manager Greg Waszkiewicz said. Owners Carleen and George Kramer welcomed some 55 people from about 10 families last year and are expecting about 65 to eat on Thursday. Call 732-281-2200 if you would like to attend; C & G's will set a place for you.