30 YEARS OF TURKEY

Zion serves up another Thanksgiving meal
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Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Mikki Moesch, right, watches as her sons Mason, left, and Isaiah, prepare to-go containers for the community’s homebound. Moesch and her family have been part of Zion Lutheran Church’s annual Thanksgiving dinner for more than a decade.

For 30 years, Zion Lutheran Church has opened its doors to the community to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and neighbors.

This year was no different, as more than 100 people filled the fellowship hall Thursday to enjoy turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and an array of tasty desserts. The only faux pas appeared to be when the serving line ran out of carrots in the middle of the dinner, but no one seemed to mind.

Third grade students from St. James Lutheran School made the centerpieces for the table this year, with fall-colored fabric surrounding several candles.

Mikki Moesch has been coordinating the community feast for 13 years.

“I just have a passion to help people,” Moesch said. “I love to cook, and I love to see this group of people come together. It serves a niche and helps the community.”

Over three days, she and other volunteers have prepared more than 120 pounds of turkey and 50 pounds of potatoes to go along with carrots, two large containers of stuffing, rolls and more. The food not only took care of those who visited the church but for many homebound people, as well.

“We started cooking on Tuesday, and we have five or six people helping with that each day,” Moesch said. “We had almost 20 people help to serve the meal. A lot of people who come to eat will also help to clean up once everything is done.”

Moesch estimates that, once all is said and done, more than 40 people will have helped with the meal. That doesn’t include the people who donate all the food.

“I am so thankful to be a part of it,” Moesch said. “It’s really helped to establish friendships and connections.”

The dinner serves a variety of people. Many folks have no family nearby to visit or to come visit for the holiday. In other cases, some folks have family members out deer hunting — the nine-day gun season always falls around Thanksgiving — so those left behind turn to Zion to prepare a meal.

The dinner doesn’t just attract locals, though. Diane Zagrodnick has been coming to Zion for the Thanksgiving dinner for over a decade, joining her mother, Virginia Glan, of Shawano, for turkey and visiting.

Because Zagrodnick always goes to her mother’s for the holiday, she was a little surprised when her daughter, Gina, did not invite her last year for a separate family dinner.

“I cried for an hour and said, ‘Gina, how could you not invite me over for Thanksgiving?’” Zagrodnick said. “She said, ‘Mom, you go to Grandma’s. That’s tradition.’”

The celebration won’t end with Zion, though. Zagrodnick said she and Glan would be hitting Fleet Farm in Clintonville on Friday and buying stuffed animals to give to local fire departments.

“When the guys go to a fire, and there’s children, they can give them a stuffed animal,” Zagrodnick said. “It’s very special, giving back.”

Zagrodnick helped to start the meal on a light note when she offered cash to let her table go first. The volunteers did not take her up on her offer, but there was a donation basket for anyone who wanted to give toward the free meal, and proceeds will go to World Hunger.

Moesch feels it’s important for no one to be left out of the traditional American holiday where people come together in celebration and thankfulness.

“People shouldn’t be hungry or alone on Thanksgiving,” Moesch said. “There’s a desire in people for friendships and camaraderie and conversations. That’s what it’s all about.”