Nine years ago, when they first moved to Orange Country from Chicago, Del and Jeff Moses discovered what it’s like to be alone with no place to go for Thanksgiving dinner.
THANKSGIVING DINNER IS SERVED TO GUESTS ON THE PATIO AT ST. NICHOLAS CATHOLIC CHURCH IN LAGUNA WOODS. PHOTO BY SPENCER GRANT/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
They decided to do something about it.
They created the Thanksgiving dinner ministry at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Laguna Woods, and thus began what is now an anticipated holiday tradition.
“I prayed to Mother Mary to help make the ministry work,” Del Moses remembered.
And indeed, it did.
For the inaugural dinner, they served 180 people in the nearby Laguna Woods retirement community (formerly Leisure World) who had no place to go on Thanksgiving. The tradition kept growing, however, and this year’s feast fed nearly 500 people.
The dinner is open to anyone who wants to attend — be it whole families or those on their own — and is served in the festively decorated community room and patio of St. Nicholas parish.
Almost 100 dedicated volunteers from the parish pitched in over four days of preparation.
Funding for the dinner came from the generous donations of parishioners and beyond.
Del Moses and her volunteers cooked and served 30 turkeys as well as ham, mashed potatoes with gravy and all the trimmings along with dessert, to a very grateful group of guests who ranged in age from 2 to 96.
“I am thankful for all the wonderful people helping me,” she said. “It’s a wonderful ministry.”
Volunteer Kathy Hernandez agreed.
“This is beautiful,” she said, “to help people in our community, many of whom are by themselves. Their families are away or maybe they’re not here anymore.”
Hernandez said that this year, she saw many familiar faces as well as some new ones — perhaps those who needed a lot of courage to attend.
“I’m alone,” said attendee Shirley (who declined to give her last name). “I have no family in the area, and this is my favorite holiday.”
Knights of Columbus member and ministry volunteer Ron Wells said that the event is quite special, especially given the challenges of the last few years.
“It’s a great way to build fellowship and to bring people back from the doldrums of COVID.”
Parochial Vicar Fr. Martin Bui expressed his own gratitude for the day.
“I’m thankful to God and the people of God,” he said. “St. Nicholas always welcomes people. The people here are lovely.”