Thanks to the efforts of one local group, Thanksgiving is truly a community event in Mitchell.

Breaking Bread Ministries, a non-profit group, continued the local tradition of offering a free Thanksgiving meal to members of the community Thursday at Mitchell Wesleyan Church. The event began seven years ago as a joint effort of five area churches, but last year the non-profit group born out of the original event took over.

Alyssa Herman, one of the organizers of the event, said attendance at the meal has only increased in the last several years.

“In 2017 our meal was about 950 people, and last year we served over 1,400,” Herman said. “And this year we are planning for over 1,700 people, which is very humbling to think we are serving over 10 percent of the population of the Mitchell community.”

Herman said about 680 people were served at the main location at Mitchell Wesleyan Church during the event, about 392 were served at the other remote locations of the event and 750 meals were delivered to community members.

Those taking in the meal range in age from those old enough to eat solid food to 102, Herman said, and in many cases families and groups of friends attend to enjoy a meal that includes turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet corn, stuffing, cranberry sauce and other fixings.

The event has evolved to include Thanksgiving meal deliveries for individuals and businesses. She said at least 25 volunteers were driving meals around Mitchell, including some to businesses that are open on the holiday to feed their hungry staff. That support has turned the meal into a unique event, Herman said.

“We have delivery teams, greeters, people who come in and reset place settings, people who help people get to their tables,” Herman said.

The meal is a massive undertaking made possible by corporate sponsorship and dozens of volunteers. Over 60 groups and individuals are sponsors of the meal, and Herman said she estimated over 160 volunteers were working Thursday morning and afternoon to pull off the community gathering.

Those generous enough to donate food items are also helpful in making the meal a success, Herman said. She said the group has prepared 1,500 pounds of turkey, 500 pounds of sweet corn, 72 bags of cranberry sauce and in excess of 400 homemade pies.

One of those Thanksgiving staples came from a single producer who said he wanted to help provide the meal.

“Last year we took donations of sweet corn, and we had a farmer in the community that approached us last year and said he really appreciated what we were doing and said he would like to grow the sweet corn,” Herman said. “He grew it and picked it and brought it to the church and volunteers put it up. We had 58 gallons of sweet corn. It is amazing.”

Herman, who organizes the event along with June Thompson, Amee Nibelsick and Lisa Catellier, expected a good turnout at Mitchell Wesleyan Church. The group also operates eight remote locations around the community to help with preparation. She said 400 meal deliveries had been scheduled by Thursday morning.

The meal is free and open to the general public, but freewill donations are welcome.

The church was alive with activity over the noon hour Thursday, with volunteers guiding hundreds of guests to their tables, serving drinks, preparing food, washing dishes and greeting visitors at the door. The dozens of volunteers were kept busy, a sign that the event continues to be a popular holiday tradition in the community.

“It takes a village. It takes all of our corporate sponsors and individual sponsors, and the amount of support the community gives this meal is overwhelming. The amount of volunteers that bring their entire family to serve is overwhelming,” Catellier said.

That makes all the challenges of putting on the meal worth it, Catellier said. And with the help of those loyal volunteers, sponsors and some help from above, the event will continue to serve the greater Mitchell community for years to come.

“It’s bigger every year,” Catellier said. “Any challenges that we’ve faced, God provided. God has blessed this meal, provided the funding, food, volunteers and skills to prepare it and the willing hearts to serve. God blessed our lives, and we need to share that with our community, and love some who are unloved.”