50-year anniversary of Annual Friends Thanksgiving: Longtime volunteers reflect

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- Bill and Barb Jones have been delivering meals with the Annual Friends Thanksgiving Dinner since its beginning—50 years ago. They haven’t been able to make each one, but estimate they’ve participated in about 35 with their children over the years.

Volunteers serve up meals for delivery at First Presbyterian Church of Wausau, Nov. 28, 2019 (WSAW Photo)

“We just find it to be a very rewarding thing to do, to go visit a lot of these people that are perhaps homeless, perhaps alone,” Bill reflected. His one regret? Not being able to spend more time with each individual they deliver to.

“I always thought that would be a great idea, and I hope sometime we can possibly do that—before we have to give up delivering meals, that is.”

Now in their mid- to late-70s, Bill and Barb remember the days their children, now grown, would participate in the tradition.

In total, volunteers delivered 475 meals to residents in Wausau and Rib Mountain on Thursday, and had expected to serve approximately another 250 at the church itself in the afternoon. To get a meal, people can volunteer themselves or people in need that they know to get on the list for meal deliveries.

The annual tradition, hosted and organized by the First Presbyterian Church of Wausau, started with a group of friends from various churches in the Wausau area. Around 60 residents came to the first meal in 1969 at the Presbyterian Church. One of the original friends, Joan Kuhl, stayed in Wausau as the others moved away, and took over as coordinator until she passed away in April of this year. This Thursday, a wall in the church commemorated her service.