SALEM - Thanksgiving may be a time of fellowship with family and friends for most, but for some it can be a lonely day of the year.
That's why over 100 volunteers from across the area spent their Thanksgiving with those less fortunate, serving hundreds of free turkey dinners at the Memorial Building and in the community.
"We do it because...we love to be able to serve on a day when others are at home with family and some people don't have that," said Jeff Schoch, co-coordinator of the program. "Scripture instructs us to reach out to people that are lonely or hurting. When volunteers are out delivering (a meal), they are instructed to stop and converse with people who are alone, spend time with them."
Volunteers from across the area Thursday helped serve hundreds of free Thanksgiving meals to those less fortunate in Salem and surrounding communities. In the above photo, Tim Mayer, left, New Waterford, and Robert Myers, East Palestine, fill a box with dinners. (Salem News photo by Kevin Howell)
Mike Mayer of New Waterford, who volunteered with his entire family, echoed Schoch's sentiments.
"We've been so blessed as a family, this is an opportunity for us to give back a little bit," he said.
Coordinated by community members Schoch and Nancy Miller, the program has been around for over 20 years and is not affiliated with any group or organization, drawing volunteers from all parts of the community. Individuals and local businesses help prepare and package the food gathered through donations.
"It's truly a community effort," Schoch said. "The Lord blesses us with the number of volunteers and donations, and people trust us even though we aren't an organized group. We want to live up to the faith people have put in us."
This year the program had 440 advanced meal requests, Schoch said, and was expected to serve over 700 by the end of the day. Volunteers packaged and delivered the homemade, traditional Thanksgiving meals to shut-ins as well as served the meals to visitors in the main dining hall.