The first time the Community Thanksgiving Dinner was served in Edmond was Thanksgiving Day 1981. It was prepared by Frank and Pat Paradise, members of First Presbyterian Church, for anyone who wished to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal with them and their six children. Between 15 and 20 people turned up and the fellowship and food was enjoyed so much that the group resolved to repeat the dinner the next year. In 1982 the attendance numbered more than fifty people.
It is difficult to know how many of the people at the second Thanksgiving Dinner were from outside the First Presbyterian Church. The success was so great and the food so delicious that it was decided to spread the word throughout Edmond to encourage greater participation. It was this greater participation that led to the involvement of other churches in the community.
For many years the dinner was prepared and hosted at First Presbyterian Church but it was felt that other churches could act as hosts as well. As the dinner attendance grew so did the structure of the group organizing it. A committee with representatives from the other churches was formed to take care of food lists, cooking, volunteer recruiting, equipment moving and the hosting of the dinner.
As the dinner grew in size and scope, it was felt that there was a need for an identity to protect the intent of the mission and to ensure the continuation onf the effort regardless of the people involved. In 2000 the Edmond Community Thanksgiving Dinner Association was begun. We received our 501c identification from the IRS the following year and our standing as a non-profit charitable organization became official. The original board of directors included people who attended the first Thanksgiving Day meal, served at FPCE in 1981 and many members who have participated for many years since the start. We have grown to the point that now the dinner is served in the Ballroom at UCO and is hosted by a different church each year.
It is this continuity of membership and fellowship that ensured that the organization continues to serve our community so well. Perhaps the greatest strength of the orgnaization is its commitment to serve the entire community. We are dedicated to serve all who wish to participate regardless of their need. We all have our needs: the need to serve, the need for fellowship, the need to participate, the need to give, the need to receive, the need for a hot meal. It is this commitment to those needs that has led to a continued success.
Over 2000 meals are served through the Edmond Community Thanksgiving Dinner program. These meals served include the sit-down meal at UCO, meals taken home that day, and meals delivered to those unable to attend. We also donate meals at the end of the day to Jesus House as well as food to Edmond Mobile Meals, Breakfast on Boulevard, Samaritan House, Hope Center, Cooks Nite Out, and My Brother's Keeper. This is all possible thanks to the hundreds of volunteers and generous donations from local businesses and individuals. With their help we can continue to provide our community a place for fellowship and live the original intent of our nation's Thanksgiving Day spirit.