Hundreds of people poured into the Parish Church of St. Helena on Thursday for the community Thanksgiving dinner that has become a tradition among residents and visitors alike.
Rosalind Dixon, a parish staff member leading preparation for the meal, said volunteers began preparations at about 6 a.m. Thursday. More than 400 to-go meals were packed for patrons to deliver to friends or neighbors.
Hundreds more ate at the fellowship hall on Newcastle Street, but Dixon wasn't sure of the number.
"It's pretty hard to tell at this point, but I can just say that it's been frenetic," she said.
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Groups of people shared tables, food and fellowship, introducing themselves to other residents and visitors alike.
Doors to the church hall were flung wide open, so crisp fall air could drift in, and delicious Thanksgiving smells could drift out. Near one entrance stood a table stacked with more varieties of dessert than can be imagined: slices of pumpkin and apple pie, brownies, cookies and assorted cakes. Donated turkeys -- most of which were already cooked -- came in for carving Wednesday.
New Yorker Linda Mangelsdorf lives on a boat with her husband, but she said they've starting planning stops in Beaufort for the parish dinner.
"In 2008 or so we were here and there were signs all over the marina that said 'Come to St. Helena for dinner,' and so we did," Mangelsdorf said.
Last year, they drove up after stopping at Hilton Head Island and stayed to help clean up after the meal. This year, they timed their travels so they would make it.
In all, about 200 people volunteered to staff the event.
"There's nothing like coming in here and feeding hungry people," said parish member Wayne Neil, on a short break from manning the kitchen. "What's the best thing in the world? To help somebody else."
The church will also be serving another 100 meals at 6 p.m. today in Washington Street Park.
Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.