There are all kinds of reasons people need a meal delivered to their home on Thanksgiving, says Linda Mills, executive director of First Call For Help, Hays, which provides help to people in need.

“We had one person call and his mother broke her leg, and he’d like to eat with her at her home,” Mills said.

For those who don’t need a delivery, there’s the annual Thanksgiving Day Feast at Rose Garden Banquet Hall, 2350 E. Eighth.

Now in its 11th year, the organizers expect 600 guests this year for the community meal on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.

As many as 200 volunteers will escort guests to their tables, where starting at noon they’ll dine on a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls and butter, green bean casserole, and an assortment of pies, from pumpkin and apple to cherry and pecan, said Celeste Lasich, a member of the Ellis County Ministerial Alliance, a sponsor of the day.

“The room is beautifully decorated,” said Lasich, a pastor at First Presbyterian Church, Hays. “It’s festive, it’s lively and it’s fun and everyone has a good time and the food is delicious.” 

She and her husband, Dennis Wilson, have volunteered at the event since they moved to Hays five years ago. Wilson is a kitchen volunteer with a team of others who help chef and Rose Garden owner Pam Burgardt with the preparations. 

“This is something me and my husband love to do,” Lasich said, noting Burgardt and her volunteers have the tricky logistics down to an art. “It’s a little bit of a ballet dance to get 600 people served within a half hour to 45 minutes.”

The meal is free, including free rides with a reservation by noon Wednesday on the Access van at 628-1052. Donations are accepted at the door, but certainly not expected or required, and all are welcome. Guests include athletes from Fort Hays State University or international students who are unable to make it home for the holiday. 

“It really is delightful,” Lasich said. “This really is for anyone and everyone. It makes a wonderful community celebration.”

Celebration Church also sponsored a food drive for the feast, and volunteers will bag groceries Wednesday evening at the church.

“At the Thanksgiving meal, folks are offered a bag or two of groceries to take home,” Mills said. 

First Call’s meals on wheels program delivers Thanksgiving dinners on the day of the feast, normally anywhere from 60 to 100.

Tables at the feast seat 10 to 12 people, and Mills said dining together is a good way for people to meet and mingle. 

New this year is The Neighbor Project, said Lasich, intended to help table guests get to know each other a little better.

“You may find yourself with people you’ve never met before,” she said. “But the shortest distance between two people is a story.” Cards in English and Spanish will offer conversation prompts, such as What’s the story behind your name? or What’s your favorite holiday memory”

And when the conversation lulls, the eating can begin, with food from Burgardt’s kitchen.

“We’ve never run out,” Mills said. “There’s always been plenty of food.”

In addition to The Hays Daily News and the Ministerial Alliance, sponsors are Access Transportation, Advanced Real Estate Co. P.A., Daryl K. Beam D.D.S., Eagle Communications, Ellis County Abstract and Title Co. Inc., Hays Area Chamber of Commerce, First Call For Help, Midwest Energy Inc., Rose Garden Steak Haus & Catering, The Meckenstock Group and United Way.