Nearly 2,000 people enjoy free Thanksgiving meals in Elkhart County

Free Thanksgiving Day meals were given to anyone in need at two locations in Elkhart County Thursday.

“They may come [to] the table as strangers, but they definitely don’t leave as strangers,” Elkhart Salvation Army Corps Major Nic Montgomery said.

The Salvation Army is one of a few organizations that work with Matterhorn’s Restaurant in Elkhart to host a free Thanksgiving Day feast.

And in Goshen, the First United Methodist Church held its own version of Thanksgiving for anyone looking for a warm meal.

“We have a group of men, probably about 20 came in, at about 4 o’clock this morning to pull turkey and get that ready,” church volunteer Lynda Salisbury said.

They were readying a holiday spread worthy of a kind and queen.

It was enjoyed by people from all walks of life, including Garlene Stone.

“My family was doing other things, and so, I just decided I’d come here then,” Stone said.

The meal was also quite satisfying for her two longtime friends.

The three women live in the same hall at the Greencroft retirement community in Goshen.

They venture out to the church each year for a Thanksgiving meal.

“We shouldn’t say [this], but we even had a lady tell us we needed two desserts!” Pat Knowles, Stone’s friend, said.

When asked if the staff at Greencroft normally gives them two desserts, the three women laughed and said, “No!”

About 30 minutes away from the church, Donavan Esparza and her three kids were taking part in what’s become their Thanksgiving tradition for the last five years at Matterhorn’s.

“For my family, this is a really wonderful thing,” Esparza said. “We’re in the poorer section of the town and, for us, it’s easier to just get out here and enjoy a really good meal that these wonderful people have put together for us.”

Two locations. Hundreds of volunteers. A lot of smiles. And a whole lot of gravy.

“You know, if some people didn’t get to come here today, they would probably sit at home and be depressed,” Knowles said. “And they got to come here. And you can hear laughter going on and you see people talking, and, you know, it’s just nice that they can come here.”

Nearly 2,000 people from all walks of life got a free Thanksgiving Day meal thanks to the church and restaurant.

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