MT. PLEASANT — Lisa Oetken isn’t sure exactly how long she and her sister, Tina Hill, have headed up Mt. Pleasant’s Community Thanksgiving Day Meal. Five, maybe six years. But Thursday was bittersweet as it’s the last one the sisters will organize together as they plan to pass the baton in 2020.
Oetken is known around town as the director of Main Street Mt. Pleasant, and Hill is the administrator of the Mt. Pleasant Christian School. However, on Thursday they took off their professional hats and were simply community members bringing a little good into Mt. Pleasant.
“We feel very blessed,” Oetken said, standing outside of the kitchen at the First United Methodist Church as volunteers whirled in and out, refilling the stuffing and green beans.
For Oetken and Hill, starting the community Thanksgiving meal was a way to serve the community and give back. Little did Oetken know it would be she and her sister who would feel the blessings from the meal. “We did this to give back to the community and serve those who can’t get out or don’t have family, and they give the blessings back to us.”
Oetken and Hill’s children are getting older and the sisters have decided to take a break, but that doesn’t meal Thursday was the final community meal. Patti Phillips will head the 2020 Community Thanksgiving Day Meal. On Thursday, Phillips manned the dessert table, making sure plenty of pie was there for the taking.
“I’m very impressed as everything runs smoothly,” Phillips said.
Phillips added that she, too, is excited to turn the community meal into a family affair by having her children and grandchildren helping next year, along with her church family.
Oetken and Hill went out on a high note Thursday, as it was the largest community meal they had put on in their half a decade at the helm. The meal, which spanned from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., saw over 200 guests come through the door by 12:15 p.m., and over 50 meals delivered, not including the meals taken to the Mt. Pleasant Police Department.
As Oetken reflected on her time serving turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings, she said it is the community that has made the meal special. “I would guess Mt. Pleasant has the best volunteers. We have so many [people volunteer] more than we know what to do with. But God always puts people where they’re needed.”