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Warm Hearts, Full Bellies: Free Thanksgiving Dinners Put Smiles on Faces

Photo by Shelley Hanson - Jenna Chastain of Wheeling carries home her free turkey dinners from Rachel’s on 16th on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday.

WHEELING — For people who took advantage of free turkey dinners offered across the Ohio Valley on Thanksgiving Day it was more than just a meal – it was a sign that people still care.

In Wheeling, Rachel’s on 16th offered free turkey dinners to go. Wheeling resident Jenna Chastain was happy to get the meals to eat with guests coming to her home later in the day.

“I think it’s very generous of them. I love that they do this,” she said. “They gave me four meals.”

Wheeling resident Patty Petz was thankful, too.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said while on her way inside the restaurant.

Ralph Manna, who is receiving help from Northwood Health Systems to secure housing in the Mingo Junction area, said he was walking by Rachel’s on Thursday morning and an employee invited him to come back and get a meal.

“It’s nice they’re doing this. It’s a nice thing for people,” he said.

In Martins Ferry, First Presbyterian Church also provided people with free to-go turkey dinners. Martins Ferry resident Lisa Hazelton was placing the to-go dinners she received for herself and others into the back seat of her vehicle.

“Thank God for them,” Hazelton said Thursday of the church’s volunteers.

Hazelton was thankful and grateful that people were willing to take time out of their Thanksgiving Day to help give others a nice meal to enjoy.

“It’s nice to know some people care,” she added.

Matt Rutter of Martins Ferry agreed.

“Praise the Lord,” he added.

Martins Ferry resident Bill Phillips also said he was grateful for the church’s work to provide the dinner. He said his wife passed away six years ago and he recently had a heart attack. Since his diet has been changed he was looking forward to eating the turkey.

“It’s nice what they’re doing,” Phillips said of First Presbyterian.

Church member Bonnie Cook was busy helping pass out the dinners to people who came just inside the doors of the building to get a meal.

“It’s going very well. We’ve already served 40 dinners,” Cook said, adding they had only been open for about 15 minutes by the time they had served those 40 dinners.

Last year the church fed about 90 people to-go dinners. And during their last sit-down dinner before the COVID-19 pandemic, the church served 150 people during its free Thanksgiving meal. The volunteers noted they hoped to have a sit-down style dinner next year instead of to-go meals.

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