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More than just a Thanksgiving meal thanks to Saint Stephens

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Volunteers meeting and learning more about a Club member's family.

Volunteers meeting and learning more about a Club member's family. /Sara Schneider, Marketing & Communications

Saint Stephens volunteers serving a delicious Thanksgiving meal to Boys & Girls Clubs.

Saint Stephens volunteers serving a delicious Thanksgiving meal to Boys & Girls Clubs. /Sara Schneider, Marketing & Communications

Club members decorating Thanksgiving turkeys.

Club members decorating Thanksgiving turkeys. /Sara Schneider, Marketing & Communications

Article written by Sara Schneider

Saint Stephens volunteers serving a delicious Thanksgiving meal to Boys & Girls Clubs.It is about having a family. It is about stuffing empty tummies to the brim. It is about giving, and last Tuesday, Saint Stephens Church gave Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids the perfect definition of Thanksgiving.

This year’s Thanksgiving dinner was organized by Julie VanGessel, a member of Saint Stephens Church. However, her efforts were not the only ones making a difference.

“There are over 75 volunteers here helping make this meal possible,” said VanGessel. “Some of them are not even affiliated with Saint Stephens; they just helped me make pies last year and wanted to get more involved this year.” Preparing a Thanksgiving feast for all of the Club members, their families, and the staff requires a dedication that deserves to be recognized. On Nov. 24th, over 200 mouths hungry for turkey arrived at the Steil Club and after a delicious meal, went home with bursting beltlines and containers of leftovers. The meal included the essentials: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, mac ‘n’ cheese, dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie.

The event was held in the Steil Club gymnasium, but with over twenty tables neatly covered with table cloths, volunteers walking around with Volunteers meeting and learning more about a Club member's family.pitchers of lemonade and baskets of silverware, and two long serving tables lined with food, it felt far from a traditional venue for sporting events.

“Saint Stephens really knows how to turn nothing into something,” said Steil Club Director Kim Krajniak. “Our Club members look forward to this dinner and love that they can bring their families along also.”

Along with the dinner, arts and crafts tables were set up with turkeys waiting to be constructed. Numerous children finished their meals and rushed to the craft stations to design their own turkey out of pre-painted brown Styrofoam cups, feathers, and other exciting decorations.

Although not everyone in attendance was with their real family, there was a definite family atmosphere radiating throughout the gym. Staff was mingling with Club members and their families. The volunteers, ranging in age from young to old, all enjoyed playing in the Steil Club Games Room and meeting the families they were helping serve.

“I like to help,” said one young volunteer who wished to stay anonymous. “I have a lot, and I like to give to those who do not have quite as much as me.”

Despite the cliché, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, and Boys & Girls Clubs cannot thank its volunteers enough. Saint Stephens provided the Club members and their families with a Thanksgiving that they may or may not have experienced elsewhere.

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