Guido Margida has been volunteering at Haven of Rest Ministries in Akron for 28 years.
On Thanksgiving, the 87-year-old retired chef, deli owner and Goodyear employee was among nearly 100 volunteers who prepared and served a free traditional holiday turkey meal for Akron-area residents, many of them homeless.
Margida’s family made up a high percentage of the volunteers as well — his wife, Rose, their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. About a dozen family members in all, Margida estimated, plus some friends.
“We’ve been doing this as a family for about 25 years now,” he said. The Akron resident arrived at 7:30 a.m. to help prepare food for lunch and dinner.
Portions were generous. Each plate of turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn pudding and green beans weighed more than 1½ pounds. A large slice of pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce and rolls were at each place setting.
All in all, Margida and the other volunteers and staff expected to serve Thanksgiving meals to as many as 600 people at lunch and dinner.
“I’m thankful that it’s here,” said a 34-year-old woman, Dominique, as she left the cafeteria after having lunch.
“I’m grateful to have it. Very appreciated,” said one man, Carl, 66. “I come here all the time.”
Haven of Rest, which provides Christian-focused programs, plus meals, shelter and clothing for homeless people at its East Market Street location, needs its volunteers, Margida and others said.
“You can’t operate without volunteers,” Margida said.
“We couldn’t do it without them,” agreed JoNell Muth, assistant food service manager at Haven of Rest.
Food preparation actually started two months ago with the cooking of 250 turkeys by the volunteer “Turkey Team,” she said. The cooked birds were then sliced and frozen; 150 of the turkeys were thawed and reheated for Thanksgiving. The remaining frozen cooked turkeys will make up Haven of Rest’s annual Christmas meal.
Other food preparation started earlier in the week, including making the corn pudding, cooking green beans and baking pies. Volunteers peeled, boiled and mashed 300 pounds of potatoes on Wednesday night, Muth said.
“It’s a well-oiled machine,” she said.
While the holiday meals are special, Haven of Rest typically serves as many as 700 meals daily, 365 days a year, all prepared by a small staff plus volunteers.
Curt Thomas, director of operations, praised the community for decades of support.
“Haven’s been doing it for 72 years,” he said. “Our need is year-round. We welcome volunteers.”
Haven of Rest also welcomes donations. Thomas said.
Needs right now include cold-weather clothing, including hats, gloves and socks for men, women and children in all sizes, from small to extra large, he said.
Donations of toiletries and personal hygiene items are also welcome, he said.
Volunteer Tim Bish drove in from Warren. The 61-year-old said he’s been volunteering at Haven of Rest for about 20 years.
“It’s an excellent program,” Bish said. “It makes a difference in people’s lives.”
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ. His stories can be found at www.ohio.com/writers/jim-mackinnon.