29th annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner set

community thanksgiving day meal set up.jpg
The tables are set as seen Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019, and ready for patrons to attend the community Thanksgiving Day meal at Concordia Lutheran Church in downtown Jamestown. John M. Steiner / The Sun

If you go

What: 29th annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner

When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 28

Where: Concordia Lutheran Church, 502 1st Ave. North, Jamestown

Details: No charge. Call 252-2819 to arrange delivery of meals to people who cannot attend the community dinner or to volunteer to deliver meals and help with other meal-related activities



For over 25 years, Amy Neustel has been volunteering to serve free Thanksgiving meals to the community members of Jamestown. Neustel, one of the volunteer coordinators of the Community Thanksgiving Dinner at Concordia Lutheran Church, said she looks forward to continuing the holiday tradition this year as she prepares to serve approximately 700 Thanksgiving dinners.

"I was doing this when I was single, back when it first started I was single," Neustel said. "So when I got married and had children it kind of just became something we did together as a family."

Neustel said she and her husband continue the tradition by volunteering at the Thanksgiving dinner and serving meals to anybody who asks for one.

"I think it is a need for Jamestown," Neustel said. "We have various families that are single-parent homes or low-income homes or homes where the parent or parents have to work for the holiday because their place of employment doesn't close for Thanksgiving."

Neustel said 25 turkeys will be cooked this year using the kitchen on the University of Jamestown campus. Alongside the turkey, plates will offer stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, buns and pumpkin pie.

Meals can be enjoyed at the church by anyone, picked up from the church for takeout or delivered by volunteers to individuals who are unable to leave their residence.

Neustel said the elderly and homeless individuals are encouraged to come to celebrate the holidays together as a community.


"We feel like we're hitting several different needs with this meal for the city of Jamestown to help the people in the community," Neustel said. "We (Neustel and her husband) both feel it's extremely beneficial for everyone."

Last year, Neustel said 688 plates were served in total at the church. The Sun previously reported 677 meals being served in 2017 and 685 meals being served in 2016.

The event is in its 29th year after starting at The Pantry in 1990 by Fritz Buegel. He served between 25 and 50 people who didn’t have anywhere else to go that first year.

Neustel said volunteers are always needed.

"We're always looking for people to help," she said. "Even if it's just for an hour."

Through the years, Neustel said her favorite part of helping organize the event has been seeing the impact the free Thanksgiving meals can have on a person's spirit.

"Just being able to watch the people on the holiday and hopefully helping to make their day even more enjoyable," Neustel said.

Tom Eckstein, pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church, said the event gives him an opportunity to connect with individuals he wouldn't otherwise be able to interact with.


"It's a chance for me to engage with people in the community. I became pastor in June of 2005 and so that first fall of 2005 was my first year doing it," Eckstein said. "And I've enjoyed being a part of it ever since."

Eckstein said volunteers who sacrifice their time on a holiday to help others are selfless and "touch people's lives in a very special way."

"I think there's a reward to both sides of it ... seeing that my church was involved in the community this way, I felt good about us being able to do that," Eckstein said.

Food will be prepared at UJ on Wednesday, Nov. 27, before being served at the church from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 28.

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