Giving thanks: Thanksgiving organizers to thank 30 years worth of volunteers


By Jim Poole

Schoharie County’s Community Thanksgiving will hit its 30th anniversary in November, and organizers aren’t about to let that landmark date slide by unnoticed.
Dozens––maybe even hundreds––of volunteers who have helped with the meal over the years will be honored at a special recognition celebration October 24.
Richmondville Mayor Kevin Neary and former county Office for the Aging Director Ethel Benninger came up with the recognition idea while planning this year’s Thanksgiving.
Both have been involved with the dinner since the first one in 1988, and they know there are plenty of others who have pitched in for 30 years.
“We’re looking for anyone who worked on the dinner, and we’ve had many of them,” Ms. Benninger said.
The Community Thanksgiving is and always has been a free meal––with seatings and home deliveries––on the holiday.
Businesses and individuals have donated turkeys and all the trimmings for the meal, and volunteers cooked and served.
“Kevin has always been the head person,” Ms. Benninger said. “He used to come in at 3am or earlier to get the turkeys in the oven.”
But Mayor Neary noted that many, many others helped, from high school students who served the meal to drivers who trekked countywide to deliver.
“A lot of people wanted to help,” said Judith Warner, who was with the Schoharie County Community Action Program in 1988.
“They felt it was a way to give back to the community. It was a feel-good thing all the way around.”
Ms. Benninger, Mayor Neary and Ms. Warner developed the dinner 30 years ago to bring together people who otherwise would spend a family holiday alone.
That’s still the focus, though the meal remains open to all––singles, couples, families.
“It was very successful right from the start,” Ms. Benninger said. “It’s not just for people who live alone. There are no restrictions.”
The Community Thanksgiving has been just as a big with donors, Mayor Neary said.
“We held our first meeting of the year on Thursday,” he said. “We called all our partners, and they all wanted to be a part of it again. Within a couple of hours, we had it all organized.”
It’s those partners that the October 24 gathering will honor. From businesses and institutions––Fenimore Asset Management, SUNY Cobleskill, Stewart’s, Rehabilitation Support Services and others––to individuals, all are welcome.
The event will be at 6pm at the Tater Barn in Central Bridge.
“We want anybody who helped at any time,” Mayor Neary said. “People can bring pictures and stories to share. There’s no donation, no charge. Just come and enjoy.”
The Tater Barn will provide hors d’oeuvres, and there will be a cash bar.