December 12, 2014

Lawrenceburg Catholics host Thanksgiving meal for people in need

Volunteers help prepare desserts on Nov. 27 at St. Lawrence School in Lawrenceburg for a Thanksgiving meal for people in need in southeastern Indiana. The dinner was sponsored by Knights of Columbus Council 1231 in Lawrenceburg, and was aided by many members of St. Lawrence Parish and volunteers from the broader community. (Submitted photo)

Volunteers help prepare desserts on Nov. 27 at St. Lawrence School in Lawrenceburg for a Thanksgiving meal for people in need in southeastern Indiana. The dinner was sponsored by Knights of Columbus Council 1231 in Lawrenceburg, and was aided by many members of St. Lawrence Parish and volunteers from the broader community. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

Members of Knights of Columbus Council 1231 and St. Lawrence Parish, both in Lawrenceburg, took time away from their families on Thanksgiving to reach out to homeless people and other people in need in southeastern Indiana.

They and other volunteers from nearby parishes and the broader community served 122 Thanksgiving meals on Nov. 27 in an initiative sponsored by the Knights. Some meals were delivered to homebound people and others who lack transportation. Others were served in the St. Lawrence School gym.

According to Father J. Peter Gallagher, pastor of St. Lawrence Parish, the initiative came about after local Protestant faith communities who had hosted Thanksgiving meals in the past found that they could no longer do so.

“I saw it as an opportunity for us to do something more for the broader community, not just St. Lawrence,” said Father Gallagher.

Jeff Lacy, Grand Knight of the council, helped to organize the event. He tried to offer a word of welcome at the start of the dinner, but found it challenging.

“My heart was overwhelmed,” Lacey said. “I actually choked up and started to cry a little. I couldn’t believe that I was in the position to help that many people.”

He was also impressed by the 70 volunteers from across southeastern Indiana who came together at St. Lawrence to make Thanksgiving a happy day for people in need.

“Our intention was just to feed the homeless and the needy,” Lacey said. “But we had a dinner of souls. We pulled together all the people in the area, and let them know that the Catholic Church is reaching out to the homeless and the needy. That’s what the pope’s message is to us, to feed the homeless and clothe the naked.”

Robin Terle, who works as an administrative assistant at St. Lawrence Parish, also helped to organize the meal.

She had many people who said they wished they could have volunteered at the meal, but were either going to be out of town or were homebound. Terle put them to work nonetheless by having them pray for the meal’s success.

“We had people from the night before through the next day, hour by hour, praying for us,” she said. “I have no doubt that whole community spirit, with everybody having a different role, is what made it so beautiful and so wonderful.”

What was also wonderful for Terle was seeing various non-practicing Catholics in the broader community volunteer at the meal who had learned about it through a robust advertising effort in the area prior to Thanksgiving.

“It was such a beautiful thing for them to see so many people pulling together and how alive and vibrant the Catholic Church is here in this area,” Terle said.

The organizers of the Thanksgiving dinner in Lawrenceburg hope to host another meal next year and possibly other meals for people in need on a quarterly basis.

Terle said having so many volunteers from throughout the broader community might help organizers in the future meet the particular challenges of people in poverty in rural areas. Lack of public transportation in such places can make it more difficult to meet their needs.

“These people have transportation obstacles,” Terle said. “We’re more aware of that. If we decide to do this again next year, we’ll still have a meal in the gym. But we’ll have a sign up for home deliveries for shut-ins and homebound people.”

Taking time away from families on Thanksgiving was a sacrifice for the Knights and other volunteers, but one they were willing to make when they recognized the need in the community, said Pete Squibb, a longtime Knight and member of St. Lawrence Parish.

“You see people in need and you love to help them,” he said. “That’s what we do at the Knights of Columbus. When you see people that are hungry, in need and are homeless, and you can do something to help them celebrate the day, it’s a wonderful thing to do.”

“This was about us digging deeper and really sacrificing, really doing what we believe is the mission of the Church, to feed the hungry and clothe the naked,” Terle said. “We worked so hard that we were all out of there by 1:30 and back to our families. We really had the best of both worlds. We were really the receivers.” †

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