LOGAN — Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, which means large family gatherings, a long weekend, football games, parades and for many, it’s the forerunner to Christmas.

However, that isn’t necessarily true for all. While most see the holiday as one of the most joyous times of the year, there are many who are alone, down on their luck, and don’t have the luxury of having a big family gathering with that holiday feast of turkey, ham, stuffing and cranberry sauce.

Thanksgiving, like many other holidays, comes with family traditions and values. It’s a time to gather in unity to express gratitude and be thankful. It’s also a time to teach the young by telling generations of stories and family traditions passed down throughout the years and to start new traditions — it’s a time to reflect on family, friends and health.

By giving thanks for what we have, we in turn choose to extend ourselves and give to others who are less fortunate. Within our hearts we can offer resources to help others.

For those living in Hocking County, we have been fortunate over the years that so many people are generous and willing to help one another especially in a time of crisis. This is so true of two families that have come together to provide Thanksgiving meals to anyone in the community.

This year marks the sixth annual Fraunfelter/Conner Community Thanksgiving dinner and the fifth year for the event to be held at St. Matthew Lutheran Church. Last year over 300 carryout dinners were picked up or delivered and 120 dine-in dinners were served.

The two families started the tradition years ago in Nelsonville, where they resided at the time. However, once they moved to Logan, they wanted to continue the tradition and the idea came to fruition. At first the Thanksgiving community meal was held at Fraun’s Service Garage, but it became so overwhelming that they decided to move it — the church was the perfect spot — plenty of parking, a kitchen, plenty of space for people to sit down and eat, and centrally located.

Each year, these two families and their friends come together to offer a free Thanksgiving dinner to anyone in the community on Thanksgiving Day. This year is no different — the dinner will be held on Nov. 22 at St. Matthew Lutheran Church beginning at noon.

“This is what we are supposed to do,” stated Shawn Fraunfelter. “We are supposed to give back to the community. The community has been good to support us and now it’s our turn to give back.”

The goal is to bring the community together, be festive, give thanks and give back.

“I can’t imagine doing Thanksgiving any other way now,” Shawn continued. “To get together with a group of people willing to help other people — it’s all of my closest friends and family that I get to have Thanksgiving dinner with. It would be strange to go back to the way a traditional Thanksgiving would be at this point.

“It was God’s plan — he gave us the perfect facility to be able to continue to do this,” he added.

For the families, it’s not about the number of people being served. “God will send you if you need food, and He will make sure we have enough food to take care of everyone,” he added.

Shawn said his perspective has changed since helping with the Thanksgiving meals.

“Especially with some of the houses you go to when delivering the meals,” he said. “You see the people and the condition that they’re in, you see not only the condition of the house but the condition that they’re in physically or mentally, emotionally — there’s been places we’ve been invited and we go in and talk with and pray with them.”

He said that when he started having that kind of interaction with people, that’s when things changed for him — he saw more clearly what is going on in the community — the hurt, the hunger, the anguish and the pain that some suffer on a daily basis.

“I don’t count how many meals are served — I just remember the people,” Shawn noted.

While this gathering is for people who may be homeless or just can’t afford a good hot meal to serve their family, this gathering is also for anyone in the community.

“I truly believe there are some people out there who need a hand-up — they need a helping hand,” Shawn remarked. “I still believe there are people who need help. And there are people who are maybe new to the area, maybe they’re empty nesters now, maybe they just want to try Thanksgiving a little bit different.

“When you think of Thanksgiving, you think of it as a community event. You don’t think of people being huddled up in their homes. It’s coming together as a community and if there’s anything we need today in society — it’s to come together as a community.

“We want people to come and share with us, bring your families, bring your friends — it’s not just for homeless, it’s for anyone who wants to get together as a community. That’s why we refer to it as a ‘community’ Thanksgiving,” stated Keith Conner, Shawn’s father-in-law and one of the co-founders of the Thanksgiving community dinner.

Each year, the event grows in size.

“It’s so amazing how many get on board with this year after year, offering $10 here, $20 there, turkeys and hams and everything that is needed for a Thanksgiving dinner,” stated Conner.

The community is encouraged to join in this event on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22.

“We want people to come and join in, meet some new people, maybe they want to volunteer a little bit, or maybe they just want to come in and take a break from their Thanksgiving. Come down and join us,” Shawn shared.

While these families pour their heart and soul into making this a community event, Conner said it wouldn’t be possible to do this without the community’s support.

“I want to say a special thanks to our friends at St. Matthew Lutheran Church for providing their church for this event,” stated Conner.

Carryout and deliveries are scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon; dine-in service from noon to 2:30 p.m. St. Matthew Lutheran Church is located at 258 E. Hunter St. Deliveries will be made to Hocking County residents, Murray City, Buchtel, Carbon Hill, Laurelville and many other areas of the county.

However, no carryout orders will be taken after Nov. 21, so be sure to get your orders in prior to Thanksgiving Day. Those needing to schedule a delivery service should contact Deb Fraunfelter at 740-603-0722 or Keith Conner at 740-385-0694 or 740-591-3020.

To make a monetary donation, volunteer, or schedule a delivery, contact Fraunfelter at Fraun’s Service Garage at 740-385-1122, or Deb Fraunfelter at 740-603-0722 or Keith Conner at 740-385-0694.

Until next time, happy cooking!

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