Thanksgiving came early to the Hernando community Thursday, Nov. 16, when St. Theresa Catholic Church, 1107 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, welcomed all to a joyful pre-Thanksgiving dinner, a gala event hosted at the church’s Rosmini Parish Hall. This year marks the third year for this festive holiday feast, in which a team of 20 people prepares a full dinner for more than 200 guests. All meals are prepared and served free of charge to anyone who chooses to attend the dinner.
“We want to make sure that everybody has a place to go for a good Thanksgiving meal,” said Marci Triplett, business manager for St. Theresa Catholic Church. “We welcome all at our feast, not just parishioners. People come if they can’t afford a restaurant meal if they’re lonely and have no family or friends to spend Thanksgiving with, if they want to come to a place to find new friends and good food.”
Triplett reveals that the tradition of the free-of-charge pre-Thanksgiving feast began years ago at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church in Spring Hill. “When they discontinued the dinner, we wanted to make sure that the tradition continued,” she said.
The Knights of Columbus at St. Theresa prepared the pre-Thanksgiving feast, a lush meal of ham, potato dressing, vegetables, salad, rolls and butter, with cupcakes for dessert, all served by volunteers representing church clubs, groups and staff. The freshly prepared food was served in a hall lavishly decorated for the occasion via autumn floral arrangements, decorative turkey placemats, napkins and placemats in robust tones of gold and orange, and celebratory signs and banners.
“The holiday season, more than ever, is a time for us to place the needs of others before ourselves,” said Danielle Laine, an event volunteer. “This is an expression of our faith here at the church, to be here for one another and the community.”
“When you think about it,” she said, taking her place behind the serving table in the parish hall. “We all have so much to be thankful for.”
Laine shares this exceptional volunteer experience with her son Dylan, who—by serving guests at the dinner—joined other young people at the church in accumulating service hours to earn their confirmation status. “This is a way to spread the love,” said Dylan Laine.
“I love to help people,” said youth volunteer Noah London.
“We’re doing this for the community,” said youth volunteer Natasha Martin.
Kid volunteers Ashley Zapatta, Anjelica London and Chris DiNemmo all said that, through their service at the pre-Thanksgiving dinner, their main goal and intention were to help people—to give folks a place to go for the holiday.
These dedicated young people circulated the parish hall for the meal, refilling drinks and bringing food to those who might have difficulty getting it themselves. In addition, volunteers prepared takeout boxes for homeless people and individuals served by Hernando charitable agencies.
As people sat down to enjoy a meal prepared especially for them, they also made friends, talked, laughed and gave thanks.
“Bless all of those who came to eat. Bless all of those who served the food,” said Pastor Fr. Bruce King. “Bless us all.”