Nov. 30, 2019 — The holiday season began in earnest on Thursday with the Kiwanis Club of Florence once again offering a free Thanksgiving Day dinner to the community. The Elks Club provides the kitchen facilities and donations provide money to purchase the groceries needed to prepare and serve a traditional dinner to hundreds of Florence area residents.
“We are grateful for all the volunteers which help make this event successful for our community,” said Shannon Sheets, one of three Kiwanis members who coordinated this year’s event.
According to Sheets, the team assembled to cook and serve the dinner was made up of some volunteers that have been a part of the tradition for years and others that are new to the experience.
“As of now, our pre-event setup allows seating for about 270 people at a time, while utilizing about 60 to 65 volunteers from around the community to help make the event possible. Some of our volunteers are in the area temporarily, for work or pleasure, and have joined in the volunteer festivities,” she said.
One of the long-term volunteers at the Thanksgiving Dinner is Francie. She has been volunteering as a server for the past eight years and looks forward to the opportunity every holiday season.
“I think this such a wonderful way to spend Thanksgiving,” she said. “There are many people who are alone during the holidays and this is way for them to get out and have a meal with their neighbors. It is also a way for us, the volunteers, to share some of the fun of the season with people who may not have any family in the area or who are unable to cook.”
There were a number of volunteers who helped with the meal, Sheets said, in addition to contributions made by diners to support local food distribution.
“Thursday’s free Community Thanksgiving Dinner served 615 meals and our guests donated just under $1,900 in financial giving,” she said. “We had about 70 working volunteers, made up of 15 Kiwanis volunteers, about 19 Elks volunteers and the rest were community volunteers. And our guests donated two, 32-gallon containers of food, which will be shared with Mapleton and Florence food shares.”
Kiwanis International was formed in 1915 in Detroit and was originally envisioned as a business networking opportunity. This focus on connecting with neighbors, and other service-oriented individuals to help their communities, soon became the group’s primary mission.
The name “Kiwanis” was borrowed from an American Indian expression, “Nunc Kee-wanis,” which means, “We trade.” In 1920, the motto of Kiwanis became “We Build.” This remained the motto until 2005, when members voted to change it to “Serving the children of the world.”
One of the main ways the Florence Kiwanis Club supports young people is by awarding local students with academic scholarships and Sheets mentioned that a portion of the donations made during the dinner will go towards that goal.
Sheets also commented on the response from community members to the dinner provided, which was overwhelmingly positive.
“One guest indicated they were very pleased at the ‘smooth operation, providing so many delicious meals to our community,’” Sheets related. “And a first-time volunteer shared, ‘Everyone seemed to be having such a good time and saying how they enjoyed the Thanksgiving meal. I hope I can volunteer with your group again.’”
For information on becoming a member of Kiwanis or to assist with the nonprofit’s future endeavors, contact the Kiwanis Club of Florence by going to FlorenceKiwanis.org or attending the weekly meetings on Wednesdays at noon at Ocean Dunes Golf Links.