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Thanksgiving meal to say ‘thank you’ to area troops

– Sometimes stuffing a holiday turkey can be a challenge.

But for the Rev. Roger Reece and about three dozen volunteers Saturday morning, the real challenge was stuffing a 12-pound turkey – plus cans of corn, green beans and sweet potatoes and boxes containing stuffing mix, instant mashed potatoes and a pumpkin pie – all inside a brown cardboard box.

“Oops, forgot the gravy,” said Reece, executive pastor of Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County, as he deftly tucked a pack of mix inside the box he was filling to demonstrate proper packing technique.

The boxes, about a hundred in all, were filled so members of some of the area’s military families could celebrate a proper Thanksgiving.

The boxes will be delivered Tuesday to members of the 122nd Fighter Wing of the Indiana Air National Guard and the Indiana Army National Guard’s 293rd Infantry, both based in Fort Wayne.

“We’re just mindful of the sacrifices, not just of the soldiers but of the soldiers’ families,” Reece said. “We write a little message on the flap just to say ‘Thank you.’ So it’s not just food they receive but our wishes as well.”

Associated Churches, a coalition of about 130 area Christian congregations, has a year-round ministry to military families, Reece said. The ministry has provided aid such as fuel assistance and security deposits, said Charlie Hatten of New Haven, volunteer coordinator for the ministry.

About $4,000 in donations from people and corporations funded the turkey boxes, Reece said.

He expects needs will go up as about 1,000 troops from the 293rd are deployed to the Horn of Africa in upcoming months.

“There are always family needs during a deployment, so we’re ramping up to serve the needs,” he said.

The agency also is stocking up its network of food pantries in neighborhood churches to serve other families during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, he said.

Standing in the middle of Associated Churches’ food warehouse at 602 E. Wayne St., volunteer Libbi Adams, 16, said she enjoyed helping with the effort.

“It’s a good way to give back,” said the Snider High School student, who has an uncle, Air Force Capt. Mark Lovelace, serving in England.

She said it’s hard not seeing loved ones. “But we Skype with him sometimes,” she said.

Bridget Bogdon of Columbia City came with a group from Fort Wayne’s Life Bridge Church.

“It’s easy manual labor. I look at it that it’s something I can do,” the 33 year-old said, smiling.

“It’s fun to get together with a group of people and do something good. It builds community, and it builds relationships,” she added.

“We could get together and go bowling, but we’re here.”

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