GREENFIELD — For 10 years, Lisa Muegge fed thousands through the Feast of Plenty, a midday Thanksgiving outreach meal served at the Hancock County 4-H Fairgrounds for any families in need of a loving place to spend the holiday.
Muegge died Jan. 28, and though her signature hugs — given to practically every person who came through the doors in search of a meal — won’t be part of this year’s event, the outreach effort will from now on bear her name.
Friends and Muegge’s husband, Jeff Muegge, are making plans for the Lisa Muegge Feast of Plenty Community Outreach on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, at the fairgrounds, 620 N. Apple St. in Greenfield.
And as they carry on in Lisa Muegge’s stead, they remember a friend who put others before herself.
“I think we want to keep it as close to her vision as possible,” said Janelle Burkhart, who knew Lisa because their sons are both students at Eastern Hancock High School.
Organizers have been setting up the phone line for those requesting carry-out meals, putting out the call for dinner food, grocery sack items and volunteers, and together navigating “what one woman did flawlessly,” she said.
Each year, the feast brings together donations from various individuals and companies who serve a free Thanksgiving dinner. It’s fed to hundreds in the 4-H Exhibit Hall and to even more through volunteer drivers who deliver meals to those who lack transportation. Sometimes, those dining are in need; others are just seeking company.
“She knew that (when) people were hurting, … a meal will bring people together,” said Ty Hunt, a chef who helps cook the meal. “You could tell by the time that she hit the door, … everyone there was going to be loved on.”
Muegge also welcomed people who were grieving, traveling or facing other issues that left them in need of comfort food. She simply offered meals, and maybe even an extra carry-out for the freezer, no questions asked.
“She would not say no,” said Burkhart, who loved that spirit about her friend. “I don’t think Lisa was ever fearful about what would happen at the feast.”
It’s a sentiment Lisa Muegge shared more than once — that the good Lord would provide, no matter the need.
“Our families are never greedy,” she said on a radio broadcast just before the feast one year. “The Father always multiplies.”
In that episode, now preserved on CD, Lisa shared the framework of the feast.
Hundreds of volunteers participate in each year’s feast — helping set up and decorate the day before, dropping off rolls and pies, donating grocery items, opening cans as early as 4 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, helping serve or deliver the meal and cleaning up.
She felt the pattern for mobilizing volunteers was one that could be replicated by other counties.
“We are surrounded by amazing volunteers every year,” Hunt said. “There is not a doubt in my mind that this is going to spread its wings.”
And yet, Burkhart, Hunt, Jeff Muegge and fellow organizer Julie Lewis have heard questions; after Lisa Muegge’s passing, would the Feast of Plenty fold this year?
“Not a chance,” Jeff Muegge said, tears welling in his eyes. “That’s her heart. That was her goal every day when she got up in the morning — to serve other people.”
The Lisa Muegge Feast of Plenty Community Outreach is set for Nov. 24, Thanksgiving Day, at the Hancock County 4-H Fairgrounds, 620 N. Apple St., Greenfield.
The annual hotline is up for those wanting to receive a meal or volunteer for the event. Call 317-335-7590 and choose one of these options: 1 to volunteer, 2 for meal delivery, 3 for transportation to and from the event, and 4 (new this year) for turkey sponsorship. Families, businesses or churches can sponsor a turkey for $50.
On Nov. 23, volunteers can help with setup and pray at each place setting. Bakery rolls, pies and grocery sack items* will be accepted from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the 4-H Exhibit Hall.
On Nov. 24, volunteers begin packaging to-go meals at 9 a.m. for delivery. Doors open for those dining at the exhibit hall at 11 a.m., and serving continues until 3 p.m. Help with cleanup is welcome after 3 p.m. Volunteers can serve for as long or short as they wish but are asked to be flexible.
To donate toward meals, make checks payable to Feast of Plenty c/o Jeff Muegge; deposit them at Greenfield Banking Co. or mail them to 3893 S. County Road 700E, Greenfield, IN 46140.
*Grocery sack items (drop off Nov. 23 or from 8 to 10 a.m. Nov. 24) are a jar of jelly, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of pasta sauce, a box of pasta, a bar of soap, a four-roll package of toilet paper and a small liquid laundry detergent.
Find updates at the Facebook page “Feast of Plenty Community Outreach.”