In the season of giving thanks, having a place to gather for a meal was plenty for Mat Simpson at the Cortland Loaves and Fishes Thanksgiving dinner Friday.
“I’m just so thankful they actually do it,” Simpson, 54, said. “There’re so many people that can’t. They either don’t have the ability or the facilities, but you can come here and get a warm comfortable meal in a friendly environment and that is so fantastic.”
Simpson was one of the roughly 150 arrivals at the dinner provided for free by Loaves and Fishes.
The dinner was run by volunteers from the community, including members from the Cortland High School boys basketball team.
The sense of family was the true connection between all attending and volunteering.
Other Thanksgiving meals
AJ’s Family Diner 202 Port Watson St.: Dinner from 1 p.m. until food is finished on Thanksgiving day.
Salvation Army, 138 South Main St.: Thanksgiving lunch from 12 to 1 p.m. Nov. 27.
“We’re serving a need for the community,” Loaves and Fishes incoming President Tom Caminiti said. “The people at the tables, they feel a sense of family, sitting down and breaking bread with each other.”
Simpson enjoyed his meal with the company of others he has known from attending in years prior.
“It’s very reassuring and comforting,” he said.
It was also his Thanksgiving celebration since he doesn’t have much family to celebrate with on Thanksgiving, he said.
The food was mostly made by Loaves and Fishes Executive Director Kim Hill. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, squash and rolls and desserts were all part of the meal.
That included 14 turkeys, 100 pounds of potatoes, 10 cans of corn and six cans of stuffing and gravy, Hill said.
How long did it take to make all of the food?
“A little bit,” Kim jokingly said. The meal also helped those who suffer from hunger issues.
Approximately 14% of Cortland County residents have hunger related issues, said Jessica Stephens, a nutritional outreach and education program coordinator at Cortland County Community Action Program Inc. This includes people who qualify for food stamps.
Stephens, who was volunteering in the kitchen, was happy to see people she has worked with attending the event.
“It just warms your heart. I see these people during the week and I’ve got relationships with them so it’s important that I come to this,” Stephens said.
Maj. Misty Coffelt, an associate officer at the Cortland Salvation Army, said she hopes Wednesday’s Thanksgiving lunch at the Salvation Army will bring the same communal feeling.
“The lunch provides a Thanksgiving meal and fellowship for individuals who may not have a place to go on Thanksgiving,” she said.
Coffelt said that those interested in donating food should donate desserts.
The Salvation Army has done Thanksgiving meals in the past but this will be the first lunch it will provide.
“It gives people the availability the day before Thanksgiving to have a meal together,” she said.