Long-time Topeka Thanksgiving dinner volunteer reflects on last 54 years following coronavirus changes

Coronavirus

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – For the first time in 52 years, organizers have called off Topeka’s popular Community Thanksgiving Dinner. Instead, frozen meals will be passed out across Topeka.

For long-time volunteer Pauline Johnson, it’s bittersweet.

“It’s going to be a change, I just hope the people will understand what we have to do, and that’s it,” Johnson said. “You just have to do what you have to do.”

The 94-year-old has been involved with the dinner since the very beginning in 1968. Decades have passed, and she has no plan to stop helping. Johnson’s favorite part of the dinner is meeting everyone who comes in.

“Just talking with everybody, just visiting with people, and knowing that we feed somebody who needs a meal,” Johnson said.

However, with the pandemic, the Thanksgiving dinner many look forward to will not be happening this year. Instead, 3,500 frozen, packaged meals will be distributed in different locations across Topeka.

“It’s beautiful, we just get a lot of help a lot of people, everybody’s happy,” Johnson said.

Despite the changes, Johnson hopes still having the meal will do the same thing it did so many years ago – help someone who needs it.

“It’s going to be a lot different this year than it was when we started way back. Boy I tell you, it’s something,” Johnson said. “We’ll do it, it’ll be alright.”

More information on the dinner is expected to be released Wednesday on how the meal distribution will work on Thanksgiving.

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