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20 years of free Thanksgiving dinners from Mel Trotter Ministries

Nov 24, 2016

A Christian organization dedicated to helping the homeless served more than 2,000 people a free Thanksgiving dinner Thursday.

The group, Mel Trotter Ministries, got more volunteers than it could use.  Volunteer coordinator Paula Seales says a week ago, she had 756 volunteers signed up to help serve the free dinner in downtown Grand Rapids.  By Thursday, it was close to 900.  She had to put some people on a waiting list and turn some people away.

“My phone was just constantly ringing," says Seales.  "'Can I volunteer? I want to be a part of this. It’s so wonderful.”

She says telling people ‘no’ was the hardest part about her job “especially knowing their heart.”

Watching people stream into the ballroom of  DeVos Place for dinner, Seales says she was moved again.  “Serving them, to me, it’s saying ‘I’m not really better than you. I want to serve you.’ That’s been huge for me,” she said.

This is the 20th year Mel Trotter Ministries has put on the dinner. This year the group served more than a thousand pounds each of turkey and mashed potatoes, 50 gallons of gravy and 200 pies.

Marla Broek and her husband Wayne have volunteered at the dinner for the past 20 years.  Years ago, they also served food at Mel Trotter’s kitchen once a week.

“It’s kind of a neat way for people who maybe don’t have another event going on on Thanksgiving and might feel kind of lonely because of that. So they get to come down here and enjoy this,” she said.

Broek has gotten her kids and some of her grandkids to help too. It’s part of her family’s tradition.