Traditional Thanksgiving meal served with a twist

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Municipal Auditorium will be the pickup site for the Franklin County Community Thanksgiving dinner from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday.

Thanksgiving is for giving thanks along with having a traditional hot meal.

The surging pandemic may make this year’s holiday celebration different as health officials warn large gatherings could increase the spread of the virus.

The Franklin County Community Thanksgiving Dinner organizers were not about to let COVID-19 take away the opportunity to serve the community and give thanks. They had to accomplish it in a different way.

“We did not want to cancel it altogether because we know people are in need,” said Julie Riggins, owner of The Goat Milk Soap Shop.

Julie and her husband, Joe Riggins, are the organizers of the event. Julie said that because of the pandemic, they will serve traditional Thanksgiving dinners to go.

“We don’t want to be superspreaders (of the virus),” she said. “We do want to make sure people have food to eat. We want to make sure everybody has at least one hot meal for Thanksgiving.”

The meal will be available for pickup at the Ottawa Memorial Auditorium, Third and Hickory in Ottawa, from 1 to 3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

“We will have boxes of food ready to go,” Riggins said. “People can pick them up ... as many as they need. They can come in the front doors of the OMA (to get the boxes). If the weather is nice, we will have tables outside where they can grab their meal.”

The fare includes traditional fixings of turkey, dressing, potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, macaroni and cheese, and pie. All the food came from donations.

“We have had several large donations come in,” Riggins said. “We are grateful for those donations. The only thing we need are pies. Everything else has been purchased.”

She said patrons may bring pies to the store, 204 S. Main St. in Ottawa, or to OMA by noon Thursday.

Riggins said providing the meal was just as important this year as at any other time.

“There will be a lot more people staying at home this year,” she said. “A single person does not want to cook an entire Thanksgiving meal or an older couple. Everyone is welcome. It does not matter if you have food or don’t have food. We want to serve the community in whatever way we can.”

The Riggins family saw firsthand the community coming together in a big way a year ago.

“Last year we threw it together in about three weeks,” Riggins said of their inaugural dinner. “The community surrounded us and made sure all the food was available. It was a big success. A lot of people said they missed it. Apparently they did it for several years and it stopped.”

The Riggins family could not envision a better Thanksgiving Day than sharing the holiday with hundreds of neighbors and friends.

“It is a blessing,” Julie said. “It is a lot of work, but the reward is greater because with everything that is going on in the world right now. I get to stop and focus on something positive. This is something I can control. I can’t control all the rest of it. There is so much division and anger right now. We are helping bless someone else and that is a blessing to us. To stop and take a breath. I may not agree with your political views or your views on COVID-19, but I can agree we need to all come together as a community.

“The person themselves matters.”