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Hundreds of people fill the Matterhorn restaurant in the early afternoon on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, to participate in the largest Thanksgiving meal in Elkhart for the day. The restaurant, along with the Salvation Army, served food from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Truth Photo By Jon Garcia) (AP)

People fill their plates in the Matterhorn restaurant in Elkhart early on Thanksgiving afternoon on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. The restaurant, along with the Salvation Army, served food from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and with hundreds attending, it was the largest meal in Elkhart for the day. (Truth Photo By Jon Garcia) (AP)

Marcus Moore of Elkhart loads up his plate with turkey at the Matterhorn restaurant in Elkhart on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. The restaurant, along with the Salvation Army, served food from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and with hundreds attending, it was the largest meal in Elkhart for the day. Moore, a Cassopolis, Mich., native, moved to Elkhart just over four months ago. (Truth Photo By Jon Garcia) (AP)

Slices of pumpkin pie wait to be snagged in the Matterhorn restaurant in Elkhart early on Thanksgiving afternoon on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. The restaurant, along with the Salvation Army, served food from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and with hundreds attending, it was the largest meal in Elkhart for the day. (Truth Photo By Jon Garcia) (AP)

Kerrie Wagner and Anthony Taylor (center) eat with Wagner’s sons, Jeremiah, Kaleb and Zac, at the Matterhorn restaurant early Thanksgiving afternoon on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. The restaurant, along with the Salvation Army, served food from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and with hundreds attending, it was the largest meal in Elkhart for the day. (Truth Photo By Jon Garcia) (AP)
Thanksgiving celebration building a ‘sense of community’
Posted on Nov. 28, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Nov. 28, 2013 at 1:43 p.m.

ELKHART — Elkhart’s Salvation Army sat down for Thanksgiving with hundreds of its closest friends to eat heaps of homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and, of course, turkey smothered with gravy.

The annual Thanksgiving celebration at Matterhorn welcomed people from all walks of life to sit down for a feast served by the restaurant’s staff and more than 200 Salvation Army volunteers Thursday, Nov. 28.

“Every year, there are more and more people,” Matterhorn owner Kurt Janowsky said. “We started with serving about 800 or 900 people the first year, and last year I think we did about 1,500 guests.”

More than 400 people were served food in the first half hour. Families with young children, couples and seniors who would otherwise be alone for the holiday sat down together for the free Thanksgiving community meal.

“People appreciate the opportunity to join in Thanksgiving dinner with others,” Janowsky said. “Many of our guests and many of the people in the community have needs, and they can’t afford to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, some of these people have had their utilities cut off and they couldn’t cook one if they wanted to, but for others, what’s attractive about this is joining in with a sense of community.”

Oscar Burke was among the first wave of guests to show up at Matterhorn for the meal. Burke said he is disabled and volunteers at the Salvation Army in Elkhart.

“The food here is pretty good,” said Burke, adding that he used to cook for a living. “It makes me want to start cooking again.”

The holiday event marked Capt. Jodi Montgomery’s first Thanksgiving in Elkhart. Montgomery and her husband were stationed at the Salvation Army in Indianapolis before moving here five months ago.

Montgomery noted that the Thanksgiving celebration was a community effort. United Pies of Elkhart donated dessert, and the Elkhart Noon Rotary Club pitched in by cooking 20 turkeys in the ovens at Volcano Pizza. ADEC Inc. and Elkhart Community Schools provided free rides to and from the restaurant.

“The sense of community that we have going on here is amazing,” she said.