Thanksgiving dinner draws hundreds to State College-area church

Wendy Franklin and her more than 50 volunteers got into the Thanksgiving spirit early.

They all went to the kitchens of the Mount Nittany United Methodist Church on Wednesday to cook more than 400 pounds of turkey in preparation for the big meal Thursday afternoon.

Franklin’s team serves more than 200 people each year on Thanksgiving Day, accepting all walk-ins and delivering food to local businesses, families and the police department. She arrived Thursday morning at about 9 a.m. to prepare after cooking all day Wednesday.

In the end, the happy faces make all the hard work worth it, she said.

“My favorite part is seeing a smiling face eating a warm meal, while enjoying the day with friends and family,” she said.

She started the event about seven years ago and it has been going strong ever since. The crowd continues to grow each year and the demand for deliveries is also growing.

Franklin said they will deliver pretty much anywhere in the area and routinely make the trip from State College to Bellefonte to drop off the dinners.

And she couldn’t do it without the donated food and dedicated volunteers, Franklin said.

For the Rockey family, the opportunity to help out and serve food has become a tradition.

Three generations were on hand Thursday to make deliveries and help prepare the food, and Mark Rockey said they will keep coming out as long as they can. The family uses the day as bonding time with each other, and sit down to eat the food together after the work is done

Rockey enjoys the chance to see some similar faces each year and interact with some of the attendees. They have been volunteering each year for more than five years.

“It’s pretty much the same people,” he said of the event. “You see a few new faces.”

But ultimately everything comes down to the food, and that’s what makes the people keep coming back.

Donald Patterson, of Lemont, comes to have a dinner each year because he likes the food so much.

He said the volunteers do a great job and the food tastes great. The spread includes turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and various assorted desserts.

“I think it’s an excellent program they have here,” he said.

Franklin has plans to keep the yearly tradition going as long as people keep coming and she is able to get food for them. She specifically likes being able to provide meals for people that don’t have other options.

“That’s what it’s all about,” she said, “taking care of our community when they have nowhere to go.”