My plan Wednesday was to stop by Fostoria High School, quickly snap some photos of a community dinner and get back to Tiffin to move on to my next task.
I knew the event would make a powerful statement, but I couldn't have anticipated watching people eat a meal of turkey, stuffing, corn, potatoes, roll and pie would have impacted me so greatly. I left the high school emotionally moved and feeling overwhelmingly blessed.
A crew was ready with 750 free meals for people in Fostoria and had prepared more than 50 turkeys weighing 10- to 12-pounds each. The money to fund the meals was raised through donations, and there were no income guidelines dictating who was eligible to participate. By noon, about 150 people had been served, and any food that was left at the end of the day was to be given to Fostoria's sharing kitchen.
Officials had taken an idea to the high school's student council and National Honor Society chapter, and other organizations joined the effort. Richard Heintschel, Fostoria's interim superintendent, said students came up with the idea to give back to the community, and the meal came together in about a month. People already are thinking of ideas for next year's meal.
Wednesday, Fostoria Community Schools was represented by the administrative team, coaches and teachers, in addition to an estimated 120 high school students dressed in campus wear who volunteered and worked in three shifts to greet people, bus tables, help in the kitchen and serve the food.
They were athletes and members of student government, NHS and band. Some were students who may not necessarily be tied to an organization but wanted to give of their time on their day off school.
Heintschel said students were experiencing firsthand what it means to give and to be part of an event. Those lessons aren't always found in a textbook or taught in a 50-minute class period. Students may not have an opportunity to show the knowledge they learned through a state-administered achievement test, but Heintschel said the event was one they never will forget.
"There's more to learning than what you get out of textbooks," he told me.
While at the dinner, I heard a story about how a man rode his bicycle to the high school, planning to pick up food to take home to his wife, who physically was unable to go with him. When he realized he wouldn't be able to take it home - meals were served on trays - a school employee loaded up the man's bicycle to ensure he could get home.
That story sums up the spirit I felt at the event.
As I left the high school Wednesday afternoon, a young man who greeted people at the dinner told me, "You have a wonderful Thanksgiving."
I'm not sure how I could have anything but a wonderful Thanksgiving after having witnessed the community coming together Wednesday in Fostoria. I'm sure the same is true for those who participated.
Young and old came together to plan, serve and enjoy the meal. Wednesday's meal might be the only Thanksgiving dinner some people will eat, while others are gathering with family and friends around the kitchen table today.
Fostoria's dinner reminded me that we have much for which to be thankful.