Mechanicsburg church is among Thanksgiving meal providers

‘It’s my contribution to the community

and the church,’ a congregant said

Photo of woman with light hair and dark framed glasses

By Amy Zullo

Special to The Knightly News

Thanksgiving is a significant time when families gather and enjoy a home-cooked meal with one another, but many people don’t want to cook a huge Thanksgiving dinner.

So, what are some alternatives to cooking Thanksgiving dinner?

Well, many restaurants are open on Thanksgiving, but the restaurant meals can be expensive and lack the intimacy of a family dinner.

One alternative in Central Penn College’s area is the Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church, 300 E. Simpson St., Mechanicsburg.
Photo courtesy the church

This dinner has been provided by members of the congregation since 2004, when two couples in the church realized they had no family Thanksgiving plans and figured it could be an opportunity to join with others and serve the community. The response by the congregation and the community was so great that the tradition has continued since then, with volunteer leaders.

From 2004 through 2019, the church doors were open for anyone in the community to come in and get a free Thanksgiving dinner and enjoy a meal together. Covid pandemic changed the format to drive-through only, as it will be this year, from noon until 3 p.m. or until supplies run out. The church is at 300 E. Simpson St., Mechanicsburg.

A dozen volunteers prepare and serve a traditional meal of turkey or ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, applesauce, cranberry sauce, and rolls and butter, along with a choice of several types of pies or cakes for dessert. Congregants donate turkeys and desserts, as well as money, to defray costs.

Last year, 270 dinners were provided. This year, plans are being made to serve 340 people. Any leftover meals or supplies will be delivered to the Stop the Violence ministry in Harrisburg later that day.

Donna Smith, of Mechanicsburg, is looking forward to coming to the church on Thanksgiving to pick up meals for herself and her son. She enjoyed the meal last year and likes the convenience of being able to pick it up and take it home to eat.

“It’s just me and my son,” Smith said. “It’s not worth trying to cook a big meal for just the two of us.”

Congregants like to say that Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church’s initials stand not only for the name of their church but for the slogan “more people caring.”

Jim Hutchison and John Scurfield have led the team of volunteers for the community Thanksgiving dinner since 2018. They say they enjoy cooking, and this is one way they can give back to others who have done so much for them. The volunteers who help prepare and serve the dinner agree.  

“It’s my contribution to the community and the church,” Hutchison said.

Zullo, a corporate communications major, wrote this article for a feature-writing class this term. She is a member of Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church and is in an internship with the church for her degree. A version of this story is posted on the church’s blog.

Comment or story idea? Contact KnightlyEditors@CentralPenn.Edu.

Edited by media-club co-adviser and blog editor Professor Michael Lear-Olimpi.