Volunteers still are needed for an annual Hays community Thanksgiving Day dinner, which was founded many years ago to make sure everybody has a place to eat a good meal and enjoy the holiday.

Lunch will be served from noon to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 23 at Rose Garden Banquet Hall, 2350 E. Eighth. The event is sponsored by the Ellis County Ministerial Alliance in partnership with First Call For Help.

“We want everyone to have a place to go at Thanksgiving,” said Linda Mills, executive director of First Call For Help, a non-profit agency that provides material assistance to those in need. “We have really a very diverse group of people that come to the dinner.”

Other sponsors include United Way of Ellis County and Rose Garden Banquet Hall.

There is no cost to attend, though freewill donations are accepted. Financial contributions also can be mailed to the ECMA at P.O. Box 173 in Hays.

The number of guests has been as high as 750, and organizers are expecting approximately 600 this year. There will be a few special guests. The Fort Hays State University MIAA champion football team has received a special invitation. Their game schedule makes it difficult for many of the students to travel home for the holiday, Mills said about the Tigers' NCAA Division II playoff game two days later.

Approximately 50 volunteers still are needed to help with a variety of tasks, including cleanup, serving food and seating guests. Those interested can call First Call For Help at (785) 623-2800 prior to the community dinner. Entire families are welcome to volunteer, and many have done so, she said.

“A lot of feedback we get from the volunteers is that it’s a way they can give back to the community,” Mills said.

Access Transportation typically is closed on Thanksgiving, but will provide rides to and from the banquet hall. Those needing transportation must call the Access office before noon Wednesday.

Groceries also will be provided to those in need who attend next week’s holiday dinner. Celebration Community Church will be collecting non-perishable food items to distribute Saturday at Walmart, 4301 Vine.