The Mount Airy Kiwanis Club will have its third annual community Thanksgiving dinner at Christi's Restaurant today.
All Mount Airy residents are invited to attend the traditional roast turkey feast, which will be served from noon to 3 p.m. at 101 Ridgeside Drive.
The local Kiwanis Club began the event in 1992 in an attempt to reach needy families in Mount Airy who couldn't afford to buy the makings for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
The response wasn't as good as the Kiwanis had hoped, so the club changed the focus of the event to a community-oriented dinner, said Edward Asher, president of the Kiwanis Club of Mount Airy.
"We not only succeeded in reaching people who couldn't afford to make their own dinner, but we also reached people who just wanted to share in a community event," Mr. Asher said.
About 75 people attended the dinner last year, and Mr. Asher said he expects twice that number today.
The staff of Christi's volunteers their time to help serve the meal.
"It's an opportunity for me as a business owner to do something for the community," said Bob Arnone, who owns Christi's. "It's been very satisfying for me."
The food is donated by a local businessperson who wishes to remain anonymous, Mr. Asher said.
Kiwanis members cook the turkeys at their homes, and the side dishes are prepared in the kitchen at Christi's.
Many of the people who attend the Thanksgiving dinner are referred to the event through Mount Airy NET, a consortium of local churches that works to help needy families.
Volunteers associated with Mount Airy NET will be delivering meals to individuals who are bedridden or otherwise unable to get to the restaurant.
Some of the diners are people who might be alone for the holidays or find themselves away from home for Thanksgiving.
For example, last year a family traveling on Interstate 70 had their Thanksgiving dinner at Christi's.
"They were so happy to find we were serving Thanksgiving dinner that they stuffed two $20 bills in the donation jar," Mr. Asher said.
The Kiwanis places donation jars on each table for those who can make a contribution.
Money raised from the Thanksgiving dinner will be split between Mount Airy NET and the Kiwanis International project to combat iodine deficiency. The disorder causes mental retardation in young children.
The Kiwanis International has set a goal of eliminating the disorder worldwide by 1999.
"It's simply a matter of raising money to build iodizing plants for salt," Mr. Asher said.
"There are areas in Appalachia where, believe it or not, iodine deficiency is a problem. It's not just a Third World issue," he said.
For more information about the Mount Airy Kiwanis Thanksgiving dinner, call Christi's at (301) 829-1900.