Giving thanks by serving others

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It has been a long-standing tradition in Winters that on Thanksgiving, no one goes hungry. Those without food or family are welcomed to a full, traditional sit-down dinner on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 23, from 12-1:30 p.m. at the Community Center. Those who are unable to leave their homes will  not go hungry — meals will be delivered to them the same day between 12-1 p.m.

Marie Rojo-Heilmann has been the driving force behind the annual community dinner for years, and was honored with the Theodore Winters Award in 2009 for her tireless efforts, collecting food, raising money and then coordinating and preparing the meal. Recently, she has been joined by Gwen Pisani, also dedicated to ensuring that the Thanksgiving meals continue.

“I love being apart of such an amazing and giving community,” says Pisani. “It fills my heart with joy to help others in need.”

Rojo-Heilmann says that her own experience with hunger is her motivation to help others.

“This local Thanksgiving meal is important to me, as I grew up hungry and sometimes lonely. I discovered about 18 years ago by volunteering for Meals on Wheels that there was a huge need for meals and a visitor. I believe everyone should have someone to share a meal with on a thankful day.”

She notes that love is another underlying motivation for those who volunteer to help prepare, serve and deliver food.

“It’s a great opportunity to love on your neighbor in a simple way. My heart is always full after serving, and I’m thankful to have others help me as they discover their neighbors’ needs too.

There is apparently much more need in the community than many realize. Last year, 448 meals were provided to those in need right here in Winters. Many of those served are seniors, disabled individuals and those who are home alone.

Feeding this many people requires not just volunteer help, but money and donations of food.

Money can be donated at First Northern Bank, in the”Winters Community Dinner” account. Food donations are being collected in red collection bins located inside Anytime Fitness, Camille’s, Pacific Ace Hardware, First Northern Bank and the Community Center. The specific items needed are canned green beans, canned corn and boxed stuffing mix.

For those unable to make it to one of those businesses during business hours, there is an additional purple collection bin outside Anytime Fitness where items can be dropped off at any time.

Donations of turkeys are also welcome. To donate a turkey, or to help prepare, serve or deliver meals, or to notify the coordinators about someone who may need a meal delivered, call Marie, 795-4824, or  Gwen, 795-4444.

For more information, visit the Winters Community Thanksgiving Dinner page on Facebook.

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