Hundreds gather for community Thanksgiving dinner in Sterling

STERLING, Kan. (KAKE) -

Hundreds of people from all over Kansas gather in Sterling each year for a big Thanksgiving dinner. It's a 40-year tradition, and organizers say it's an important part of the community.

"It's very rewarding," said Sterling Chamber of Commerce President Amy Derr. "Makes my heart smile."

The Chamber puts on the dinner each year thanks to donations from the community. Derr has been the head of the event for three years.

"It's a lot of work, but we have a lot of great volunteers that make the work go smooth and a little easier," Derr said. "This year, we prepared 24 turkeys, 20 hams."

"This is actually my first Thanksgiving in Sterling, just glad to be here with family," said attendee Vaughn Boyd. He said it's not unusual to see so many people in the city. "This is a college town, so I'm constantly seeing people from California, Wisconsin, Washington. All the west coast easily comes to school here."

Not everyone in the Sterling community could make it out to the college cafeteria for the meal, so some volunteers stepped up by delivering food. Those volunteers told us why it's so important to them to be able to give back on a day like Thanksgiving.

"In agriculture, it's been a tough year," said farmer and volunteer Todd Zimmerman. "We just wanted to do something good this year. It's been a struggle."

Todd and his wife, Lillian drove out to those who were not able to attend the dinner because they were stuck at work or stuck at home.

"For me, personally, I think of how God's given to me," Lillian said. "I'm very thankful I'm able to give back to other people, especially in this season, when it's easier to do."

The head chef for the event, Mark Kane, said he's glad for the chance to connect with people.

"Sterling's a really small place," Kane said. "When you get everyone together like this, you get a feel for how much of a community this is, instead of just a town."

Volunteers and attendees said they're glad to see everyone at the table.

"Warm, man, it really makes me feel warm inside," Boyd said. "Seeing the community come together like this. I've never been in a city that did that. It definitely warms your heart."

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