It started back in 1989 when volunteers at Royal Redeemer Lutheran Church at the corner of Royalton and Abbey Roads began the Care and Share Community Dinner. On that Thanksgiving Day nearly 30 years ago, volunteers served 100 dinners.
In 2018, hundreds more volunteers prepared about 1,700 Thanksgiving Day dinners to be taken to shut-ins and to be served at the church.
“Our preparations to serve the hundreds on Thanksgiving Day began on Tuesday, two days before,” said Paul Martin, a member of the Committee that oversees the dinner. “We prepared about 900 pounds of turkey plus all the fixins, all made from scratch. Our partners at Giant Eagle were a huge help to us. I’ve been involved in these dinners for the past 20 years. Once you get involved in this project, you’re in it.”
I tagged along with Jeff Johansen and his granddaughters, Kate and Allison, Royal Redeemer members, as they delivered meals throughout North Royalton and Broadview Heights. They delivered to eight different households in the two cities.
What I discovered was that there is a great need in both communities. Some of the shut-ins that the “Johansen Clan” delivered to were either new to our area and didn’t know anybody, were alone because of the death of a loved one or were a military veteran and were still suffering from battlefield injuries or where dealing with medical issues. The last category made me realize the sacrifices these men made so that I could enjoy Thanksgiving Day.
One military veteran called the Thanksgiving Day meal he and his son received ‘A Godsend’. Another vet, who served 20 years in the Navy and is confined to a wheelchair, was ‘thankful for the dinners and was thankful that someone came to see him on Thanksgiving Day’. Then, the Clan and I thanked him for his service to our country. Still another military vet, took the Thanksgiving dinner, thanked us and closed the door.
We also met a husband and wife who recently added a four-month old child to their family. Dollars for this family are stretched so thin that they couldn’t have a Thanksgiving Day dinner with all the trimmings. The husband said, “It doesn’t hurt to ask for help when you need it.”
One young lady recently moved into the area from Columbus. She started off her year coming to the United States from overseas. “This is a big help,” she told us.
Those who lost loved ones just needed to know that ‘someone cared enough to come by on Thanksgiving Day’. As one woman told us, “this is proof that Jesus is alive in our hearts.”
Jeff Johansen’s granddaughters provided some interesting perspectives. Kate, a high school sophomore, called it “an eye-opening experience” in delivering meals on Thanksgiving. Allison, an elementary school student, said her previous Thanksgiving days were filled with, among other things, “giant plates of food.” And after this Thanksgiving Day, Allison called her travels and deliveries “a heart-warming experience.”
Donations are always accepted at Royal Redeemer for their Thanksgiving Day Care and Share Dinner. If you want to give something else that is even more valuable, give your time.

Contributing Writer