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Hilton Head Community Thanksgiving Feeds More Than One Thousand Neighbors

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The kitchen of Hudson's Seafood in Hilton Head Island was in a cheerful bustle on Thanksgiving morning as it turned-out heaping plates of turkey and fixings.

"We're just trying to help everyone get a nice Thanksgiving dinner," said volunteer Laurie Zahler.

It was the Fifteenth Annual Thanksgiving Community Dinner that packed-out the house and formed a line around the building.

Organizers say the dinner has been going strong since its beginning in 1998. In the years since, about 500 plates served has grown to be 1400.

"Now we have about 1400 people that we serve, and we use about 400 volunteers," says Gloria LaCoe.

The plates are free to anyone who enters. They are provided by donations, mostly with the help of St. Andrew by the Sea United Methodist Church.

LaCoe says the dinner began as a way to help those less fortunate during the holiday, but also to give lonely neighbors a place to gather among people for a traditional meal.

"This is a slow time of the year for them, and they can come and meet with the community, but it's not just that, it's about giving back to the community," LaCoe says.

Those who entered into the seafood restaurant this holiday were a mixture of both. There were vacationers, elderly couples, and small families looking for a large family atmosphere.

One family seated around the table for a family style meal among strangers was the Aldana family.

"My older children have left the nest, so my two younger children are here with me today," said Vivian Aldana. "Not only do we get the food, but we get the family atmosphere."

The cooks enjoy seeing the smiling faces, too.

"We will never stop doing it. It's a 15 year tradition and we're going to keep it going forever," says Patrick Ward. "We're very blessed to be able to provide for people in need."

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