McPherson’s free annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner is a true opportunity for altruistic and civic-minded people to step up for the good of their community.

McPherson’s free annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner is a true opportunity for altruistic and civic-minded people to step up for the good of their community.
When the Kroeker family showed up to volunteer last year, they showed up in mass.
For McPherson’s 2012 Community Thanksgiving Dinner, 24 members and three generations of the Kroeker family volunteered for the event.
For family patriarch and matriarch John and Donna Kroeker, it marked their first year volunteering at the event, which they had attended in the past.
“All of our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren were serving,” Donna Kroeker said. “We thought it would be a good experience to have all the children and grandchildren do it.”
With four married children and 14 grandchildren, John and Donna Kroeker have been very active and altruistic members of the Inman and Buhler communities.
An Inman native, John Kroeker worked as a farmer and a custom harvester. Donna Kroeker, a native of Buhler, also worked on the couple’s farm, and at Gregory, Incorporated in Buhler. The two were married on Dec. 1 1957 and, upon retiring six years ago, moved into Inman.
“Ever since we got to town we’ve been retired,” John Kroeker said, “so we got involved with volunteer work.”
The couple volunteers their time to organizations and operations, such as the Inman Senior Center, the Red Cross Bloodmobile and the Et Cetera Shop in Hutchinson. They’re also very active members of Bethel Mennonite Church.
John Kroeker said at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner, the family was almost all involved in serving the food, with the youngest grandchildren wrapping silverware and putting it on the trays.
“We worked through the whole serving time,” John Kroeker said.
“We told the family, ‘everyone is capable of doing something,’” Donna Kroeker said. “We had enough family members there to man two lines.”
This will mark the 18th year for the Community Thanksgiving Dinner.
Community Thanksgiving Inc. Board Secretary and Food Coordinator Verla Thomason said it all started with a community woman.
“A lady by the name of Carla Brown didn’t have any family in the area,” Thomason said, “so she started getting funds together for a dinner. It was held at the senior center the first year. They thought it was a good idea to open it up to the public, and 150 people showed up for the second one, which was held at the Community Building.”
Thomason said the event, funded solely through donations, kept growing.
“We had 800 people last year,” Thomason said. “It’s become area wide and isn’t just the community of McPherson anymore.”
The event is staffed by people, such as the Kroeker family, and Thomason said the volunteers are fantastic.
“It’s amazing how you can have people sign up as volunteers who’re ready to start at 8 a.m. Thanksgiving morning,” Thomason said. “It amazes me that people can come together, work together and put on such a festive event. It’s a blessing to the community. The hardest part is getting volunteers for the food preparation that starts Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m. After 15 minutes of instruction, though, even those who don’t cook seem to always do an amazing job.”
John Kroeker said that, while he and Donna were considering volunteering for this year’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner, there wouldn’t be as much of the family volunteering this year.
“The children alternate years so they’ll spend this year at their spouses’ families,” John Kroeker said.
John Kroeker said he was impressed by the willingness of  McPherson area residents to support the Thanksgiving dinner.
“We live in an incredibly good land and community,” John Kroeker said, “and much has been entrusted to us. We feel blessed to help others, especially in events like this where there are people who wouldn’t have a home or a family. I think our Christian upbringing and values in life motivate us to do these kinds of things.”
Those who wish to volunteer for the Community Thanksgiving Dinner can do so by calling 245-0313. To donate pies, call 241-8501.
Those wishing to make reservations to attend should call 241-1292 by Tuesday.
The dinner will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the McPherson Community Building, 122 E. Marlin St. Doors will be open at 11:15 a.m.
The Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner is free to attend, and is paid for through the generous donations of area businesses and individuals. Donations for the event can be mailed to Community Thanksgiving Inc., P.O. Box 14, McPherson, KS 67460.
Community Thanksgiving Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.