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A meal for the masses

Herget bteacher Jaime Faulhaber serves up Spanish rice for volunteer order taker MarshGreen during Community Thanksgiving CelebratiWednesday West AurorHigh School.

Herget band teacher Jaime Faulhaber serves up Spanish rice for volunteer order taker Marsha Green during the Community Thanksgiving Celebration Wednesday at West Aurora High School. A similar event was held simultaneously at East Aurora High School. Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 24, 2012 7:12AM

AURORA — More than 1,500 people sat down to break bread together across the city of Aurora during the Good Samaritan Network’s second annual Thanksgiving Celebration this week.

They dined on turkey, ham and all the fixings their plates could hold. Green beans and Puerto Rican rice were piled next to scoops of mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and cranberry sauce.

It was a meal they would not have gotten, if not for the hundreds of volunteers and sponsors who collaborated to make the event a success. “People have worked throughout the night and were up bright and early (Wednesday) morning to make this happen,” said event coordinator David Williams.

Churches from across Aurora gathered volunteers by the dozens, each eager to bring the joy of the season to the less fortunate.

Karla Leon, who attends Iglesia Bautista Emanuel, worked hard Wednesday, handing out menus and taking orders from her diners. “It’s nice to help other people,” she said. “God told us to help each other, especially around the holidays. People are struggling, and it’s good to help them out.”

Families of seven and parties of one joined together at tables in the East Aurora High School cafeteria during two separate seatings. Across town, at West Aurora High School, the scene was similar. The Thanksgiving Celebration event, which served 900 residents at East Aurora High School last year, expanded to West High this year to accommodate diners from throughout the city. Williams said so many people signed up that they had to cut off registration. “We will serve 5,000 people soon,” he said. “I’m not sure how. But we’ll do it.”

In the East High cafeteria, carts of carrot and red velvet cakes made their way through the aisles as the eyes of children grew wide with delight. Pumpkin pies, brownies and angel food cakes made mouths water.

“It’s nice to see how much this city cares,” said Aurora resident Bradley Nation, who enjoyed his community meal for the second year in a row. “I like fellowshipping with everyone and being around people.”

For James Schweiger, the meal was a very special treat. “It was perfect timing,” he said, lifting his fork to his mouth.

It was especially perfect for Schweiger’s girlfriend, Debra Harvey, who, in addition to a warm meal, got her aching back worked on.

Students from National University of Health Services were on hand to help relieve the aches of weary residents, and Harvey was eager to hop on their massage table. “It was an extra perk, and it was wonderful. They did a wonderful job,” she said. “The whole evening has been beautiful.”

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