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Couple continues meal for community

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Three years ago, Ron Jones woke his wife at 4 a.m. He had awakened in the night, struck with the urge to plan a Thanksgiving dinner for the community, and needed to tell her about it.

"And she said, 'Yeah, go ahead,' " he said.

Jones and his wife, residents of Chapmanville, planned the event and garnered volunteers that year with a grassroots, social media campaign, "mainly through Facebook," and have been holding it ever since.

Last year, they served 500 meals. This year, they're preparing for more, with 34 turkeys.

The dinner, held today at Chapmanville Middle School from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., is open to the community. Jones said they have about 27 volunteers cooking and working the dinner but "there's always enough work," and he would welcome last-minute volunteers.

They will be delivering meals to anyone who can't get out of the house. To request a meal or for more information, call 304-687-9520.

In Cross Lanes, the members of the Cross Lanes United Methodist Church will put on a Thanksgiving dinner for the second time. It's held at the church.

Kim Henry, a volunteer, said the kitchen is "stocked to the gills" but the church would still welcome more volunteers.

"One of the best things to do is sit down and eat with people and make them feel at home," she said. "We would never turn anyone away when they come to help."

They served 200 people last year and are expecting more this time around. Wednesday, they had men stationed outside the church at four deep fryers, cooking turkeys. More volunteers brought them from home. Still more were cooked in the church's oven. They'll be serving 30 turkeys in all.

Cross Lanes residents who can't make it out to the dinner can call in for a meal at 304-776-5813. The dinner will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  

In Charleston, the Frank Veltri Thanksgiving dinner is in its 43rd year. Veltri started the dinner in his home in 1966. It has since grown to feed more than 2,000 people, with dozens of volunteers. Before he died in 2001, he left the Kanawha Valley Foundation with an endowment to continue the dinner.

Anyone is welcome. Last year they served nearly 1,800 people by delivery and hundreds more in person.

"Anyone that wants a meal on Thanksgiving, they can come here and we'll feed them," said Angie Douglas, who helps organize the dinner. "If they're rich or if they're homeless, this is the place."

Volunteers will be delivering meals all day but can handle additional requests for delivered meals only in the morning. To request a meal, call 304-412-2786 between 7 and 9:30 a.m. The dinner will be from noon to 2 p.m. at the First Baptist Church.

They can't accommodate any last-minute volunteers.

The Charleston Salvation Army will offer a meal from noon to 2 p.m. at its building at 301 Tennessee Ave.  For more information, call 304-343-4548.

Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.maunz@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.


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