Mid-Missourians are invited to celebrate Thanksgiving Day on Thursday at the following locations:
• 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 301 Capitol Ave. - Reservations are helpful, and donations are appreciated. Home deliveries by request.
• Noon at The Salvation Army Center of Hope, 927 Jefferson St.
• 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at Immaculate Conception Church, 1206 E. McCarty St. - Full Thanksgiving meal, delivery available to shut-ins. Call 573-635-6143 for more information.
• 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at 323 Redwood Drive, New Bloomfield - A free Thanksgiving meal will be served with deliveries available in Holts Summit and New Bloomfield.
• 1 p.m. at Table of Grace, 3328 Bennett Lane - Everyone welcome. Reservations requested by Tuesday by calling 573-301-0792 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The spirit of Thanksgiving is not about tangible gifts, but those that come from being with family, friends and an atmosphere of faith, said Cindy Schnieders.
She has organized Immaculate Conception Church in Jefferson City to extend that gift of love to its neighborhood in the form of a Thanksgiving meal.
"It's our way to give thanks to God for the gifts we've been given," said Cindy's husband, Michael Schnieders. "It's in giving that we receive."
Wanting to get their teenage boys involved in the community, the Schnieders family volunteered six years ago at The Salvation Army Thanksgiving dinner.
They realized this was an act of kindness their parish could deliver.
After visiting with Marylyn DeFeo, a parish member and volunteer director of the Samaritan Center, the need was confirmed and deliveries were going to be a key.
City buses don't run on the holiday. So, by the time families pay for transportation, the meal is no longer "free" to them, DeFeo told the Schnieders.
"Thanksgiving is a family holiday, anyway," Cindy said.
Delivering a warm meal to a family at home is part of that, she said.
And for shut-ins, the delivery is a chance for a little extra company on the special day.
Last year, they delivered about 450 meals and served another 50 at the church.
For those who come to the meal, they are met by a friendly face, festive decorations and the wonderful aroma of homemade rolls.
The overflowing plate of homestyle favorites is served to the guests at their seat while members of the parish visit with them.
And each meal is topped with a prayer card prepared by students from the school computer class.
"We're amazed at the people at Immaculate Conception," the Schnieders agreed.
Sign-up sheets at each of the six weekend Masses have been filled in the past with volunteers to bring desserts or canned vegetables. The Schnieders are hoping for the same response today.
"This gives a lot of people the chance to give to the community without being there," Cindy said.
Then nearly 100 volunteers get hands-on from baking 1,000 homemade rolls to preparing 30-plus turkeys to peeling potatoes to cleaning up after the meal.
There's a place for anyone who wants to help - even if they aren't parish members, like next-door neighbor Save-a-Lot, which provides refrigerator space.
Many youths needing to put in service hours have enjoyed sitting around with friends preparing the meal, Cindy said.
This has allowed members to get to know others within their own parish. And it has accomplished the Schnieders' original goal of passing on the torch of "responsibility to take care of our neighbors" to the next generation, Michael said.
On Monday, the Schnieders expect to receive calls non-stop from willing volunteers and those wanting to come out for a meal. On Tuesday, a sea of desserts will fill the teachers' workroom at the school.
On Wednesday, volunteers will gather to peel potatoes and prepare for the morning's cooking, while others will take care of the turkeys.
By 6 a.m. Thursday, the church's small kitchen will be hopping with pans of stuffing and warming yams, not to mention the rising of fresh rolls.
This has become one of the largest community outreach projects for the parish.
For the past four years, the parish has served a satellite Thanksgiving meal at the Dulle-Hamilton Towers.
Combined with other day-of community meals, including The Salvation Army, First Baptist Church, and the community of Holts Summit, nearly 2,000 Mid-Missourians benefit from the generosity of others for a Thanksgiving meal.
To sign up for delivery, call 573-635-6143 before noon Tuesday.