An estimated 800 people were served Thanksgiving dinner Thursday by a corps of dedicated volunteers at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church and First Baptist Church, as both churches served their annual community Thanksgiving dinners.
Both churches reported serving about 400 people over the noon hour Thursday — about half dining in, half enjoying meals delivered by volunteers to shut-ins around town.
Bryan Campbell was busy handing out dinner rolls Thursday to guests at the Knights of Columbus Thanksgiving Dinner at the St. Francis Xavier Leven Center, 110 N. Madison.
Campbell said he's been volunteering at the annual Knights of Columbus dinner for more than 20 years, since he was a child. He keeps coming back, he said, because it's fun to serve others.
"I just enjoy helping out," Campbell said, "and seeing the people who don't have houses, or don't get that much to eat, come through and enjoy the meal."
Al Patocka, who's been volunteering with the Knights of Columbus at the community Thanksgiving dinner since it started 34 years ago, said there's no replacement for the feeling he gets from serving others.
"It just makes you feel good," Patocka said. "I get tired sometimes, with all the work that goes into it, but I feel good about doing it."
A few blocks away, at First Baptist Church, 401 W. Maine, volunteer coordinator Amy Humphrey said the dedication of volunteers makes the task of serving 400 people not only possible, but fun.
She said more than 100 volunteers came out to help with the meal, out of a desire to give of themselves for others.
“I think they just like to help the community, and this is a good way to love on people,” Humphrey said.
Marc Espinoza, who was busy serving the meal with his wife and kids, said volunteering at the annual dinner became a family tradition when he came to Enid through Vance Air Force Base about 10 years ago, when he still was in the service.
"This has really become a family tradition for us," he said. "This is one of the things we can do for our community to serve, and to just love those in need. It's one of the best traditions we have in our family around the holidays."
Dave Clinton also was volunteering with his family at the meal. He said he and his family have been volunteering at the community Thanksgiving dinner for 12 years.
Clinton said the annual tradition of serving at the meal started out as a way to teach his five children about serving others.
"I wanted them to see service and get them used to helping people in need," Clinton said, "and see that service is a gift that gives both ways."
Clinton and Espinoza both said they and their families have received far more from the event than they've given, and it's connected them in new ways to the community, especially to those in need.
"When you meet the people here, and hear their stories, you get a sense of community like you never felt before," Clinton said, "and you just want to be a a part of it."
For those interested in helping meet the ongoing needs of the food insecure, opportunities are available through Our Daily Bread, at 616 W. Randolph, or by calling (580) 242-5718, and at Loaves & Fishes of Northwest Oklahoma, at 701 E. Maine and online at http://www.loavesandfishesnwok.org.