WINCHESTER — About 1,250 meals were served at Thursday’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

The dinner was takeout and delivery only for the second year in a row due to the pandemic. In a typical year, hundreds of guests and volunteers would gather inside First Presbyterian Church in downtown Winchester to sit down and eat dinner.

This year, people either stopped by the church to pick up a meal or they had food delivered to them.

Dinner co-director Bob Cleaver said that when the event was being planned in the summer, coronavirus vaccination rates were much lower and the take out/delivery method was the best way to ensure everyone’s safety.

Before the pandemic, he said about 450 volunteers would serve the dinner inside the church. This year, he said there were about 35 volunteers at the church and 50 drivers delivering meals. Numerous businesses, organizations and volunteers help make the meal possible.

Despite the limitations caused by COVID-19, the volunteers who helped put the meal together were still excited about serving the community. Each meal came with rotisserie chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, rolls, butter and pie.

”We actually had a few more people than expected,” Cleaver said. “That’s all good, everyone had a great meal. The feedback from those who received it has been outstanding. One fella called me personally. He said, ‘Just wanted you to know, it’s the best Thanksgiving meal we’ve had in years, it was delicious.’”

Cleaver said the dinner was “truly a community event for the people of the community and supported by the community very significantly.”{/div}

Longtime volunteer and Loudoun County resident Sharon Jones helped package food with her two adult children — LaTonya Page and Jovan Ragland. They said volunteering for the Community Thanksgiving Dinner has become a family tradition.

“We were looking for something to do to help the community and this is the only place we found that does it on Thanksgiving Day, and that kind of made it more special,” Page said. “And it was always great to see the people. Of course, post-COVID, we don’t get to see all of the people impacted by what we are doing, but it’s still a great thing to do. It’s a meal for people who don’t have a meal or don’t have families with them.”

Ragland said, “It’s great to give back.”

Volunteers Barbara Pearson and Charles Uphaus said the dinner was a significant outreach to people in need.

June Leonard, who picked up a meal on Thursday, described the food as “delicious” and said the volunteer servers were “respectful and nice.” While she appreciated the meal, she said she missed the in-person sit-down dinners from before the pandemic. She said her family doesn’t live in the area and she enjoys interacting with others on Thanksgiving.

“You get to socialize with people when you go inside, hang out,” Leonard said. “It’s like a family environment. And if you don’t have family, it’s nice to be around other people.”

Winchester resident Jeff Chamberlin said he and his girlfriend hoped to deliver some meals to people on Thanksgiving.

“I think it’s great that anybody can go out and help somebody out and pull together in this time of separateness,” Chamberlain said.

— Contact Josh Janney at

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