The tradition of a community Thanksgiving dinner in Havre de Grace will continue this year, thanks to an outpouring of support from individuals, churches and businesses that has allowed organizers to close in on their fundraising goals.
"The response has just been phenomenal," lead organizer Don Osman said Wednesday.
Osman had appealed to the community earlier this month to help raise about $1,000 to complete a fundraising goal of at least $4,000 to put on the dinner.
It is called the "First Annual Havre de Grace Community Thanksgiving Dinner."
Osman set a deadline of Tuesday to give organizers enough time to order food for a dinner where 500 to 600 people are served, including those who volunteer; Osman said 782 meals were served during the 2012 dinner.
"We have at least a month to get organized," Osman said.
He sought not only money, but also volunteers and donations of food and materials. Local businesses, churches, civic groups and individuals had already stepped up.
More contributions came in after Osman made his appeal through local media.
He said families have been calling and offering to volunteer.
"There's a lot of good people out there... just sincerely interested in helping, and that's great," Osman said.
Osman is a board member of the nonprofit group Community Projects of Havre de Grace Inc. and the founder of the SMILES student community service group at Havre de Grace High School.
The SMILES student organization – the acronym stands for Service Makes an Individual's Life Extra Special – folded after the 2012-2013 school year, and the community Thanksgiving dinner, held at the Church of St. Patrick, was one of the group's signature annual events.
Members of SMILES have raised the money for the dinner in past years, and Osman was faced with starting "from scratch" this year.
He sought assistance from Community Projects of Havre de Grace, which has also supported the construction of facilities at James Harris Stadium at the high school, the ongoing restoration of the city's opera house and decorating downtown Havre de Grace during the Christmas season.
A Thanksgiving Dinner Committee has been established under the umbrella of Community Projects.
Osman was still tabulating the contributions Wednesday and did not have an exact figure of how much additional money had been raised.
"I have no doubt we're going make our goal," he said.
Osman noted several contributors had offered to cover the difference if the fundraising goal was not met.
He said people can still make donations, even though Tuesday's deadline has passed, and even during the dinner on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28.
People can also contribute during the year through Community Projects of Havre de Grace.
Osman said more than 100 people usually volunteer, and stressed no one would be turned away if they offer their time.
Volunteers are needed to prepare and serve food, deliver meals, clean up and even visit with the diners.
"I never say, 'no' to a volunteer," Osman said. "We'll find something for them to do."
The dinner will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Church of St. Patrick, and reservations can be made beginning Nov. 11.
Call Osman, 410-939-5412m to contribute, volunteer or make reservations.