GREENFIELD — Gathered around a steel table, Sean and Ellen Rasor and Sue Cox stirred vats of stuffing and brown gravy in the small kitchen.
A few feet away, roasters and ovens warming turkey, sweet potatoes, corn and green beans filled an event tent set up just outside the 4-H Exhibit Hall at the Hancock County 4-H Fairgrounds. The dishes, pumping fragrant steam into the winter air, were cooked with care, starting with roasting 100 turkeys early this week, for the 12th annual Lisa Muegge Feast of Plenty, an event providing free Thanksgiving Day meals, groceries and other supplies to the community.
In its second year without founder Lisa Muegge, who died in early 2016, the event delivered some 1,200 meals to people in six central Indiana counties and about 400 meals to people who attended the event at the fairgrounds, said longtime volunteer Ty Hunt. Lisa Muegge’s memory was everywhere in the exhibit hall, both in photographs set up throughout the building and in the memories of the volunteers taking part.
A website, which went live this year, helped organize volunteers and aid recipients in signing up to have meals delivered. The website, feastofplentyoutreach.com, might have helped to increase the number of people who requested meal delivery, Hunt said.
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Hunt praised the hundreds of community members who donated their time to preparing and delivering the holiday meals, continuing the vision of Lisa and husband Jeff Muegge.
“You all are amazing for giving your time for others,” he told the group. “Just let your love grow from Hancock County. … Let’s make a little difference today.”
Hunt led a prayer, asking for the meals to be prepared and delivered with love and for the hundreds of delivery drivers to remain safe, before giving volunteers the go-ahead to begin plating their meals.
All number of circumstances drew people to the fairgrounds. Some didn’t have family events to host or attend on Thanksgiving Day and wanted to do something to help out. Others just needed a hot meal.
Ken and Sharon Brown stood amid hundreds of other volunteers young and old, waiting in line to plate the meals that were delivered to more than a thousand people. The Greenfield couple, which celebrated 56 years of marriage earlier this week, volunteers every other year to walk along the serving line and fill carry-out containers with turkey, rolls, potatoes, veggies and dessert. On the years they’re not volunteering, they host a Thanksgiving meal for their family, Sharon Brown said.
Sean and Ellen Rasor, serving up stuffing in the exhibit hall kitchen, were first-timers, looking to those like the Browns for guidance.
For them, the opportunity to serve happened by chance.
“Our family Thanksgiving got moved to Saturday, and we thought we needed to do something,” Sean Rasor said.
Other people served in memory of lost loved ones.
Donna York of Greenfield sat at a table, where she quietly separated plastic bags, preparing them to be filled with the takeout containers being delivered.
Her son, Donald York, died two years ago, she said. He was the type who would have loved such a gathering, coming alongside others to make the holidays easier for those in need.
“It means a lot to me to be able to give,” she said. “I know this is what he would want me to do.
Along the walls of the exhibit hall, Kim Hall, director of Mental Health Partners and Cathy Matthews, co-founder of Backpacks of Hope, stacked 90 stuffed backpacks awaiting new owners — especially those who don’t have homes of their own. Greenfield’s Backpacks of Hope is transitioning its leadership from husband-wife team Cathy and Jim Matthews to Hall, who will rename the effort Navigation Backpacks and wrap the program into other efforts by Mental Health Partners.
Cathy Matthews acknowledged her feelings of sadness mixed with relief to see the organization in good hands.
“There are so many people who have helped over the years that I’m grateful to,” Matthews said.
When she and her husband created Greenfield’s Backpacks of Hope in 2014, they asked Lisa Muegge whether they could become a part of Feast of Plenty — the community organizer was enthusiastic about their mission, she said.
It’s heartwarming to see so many people from the Greenfield community come together on the Thanksgiving holiday to give back and honor Lisa Muegge’s vision, she said.
Jeff Muegge praised the volunteers who come back to help year after year. While there are four people, including him, who work to pre-plan the annual event, it’s the annual volunteers who keep the event running like a well-oiled machine, he said.
“I love the volunteers,” he said. “They always make things easier around here.”