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As the lure of a free turkey dinner brought hundreds of people to the door, members of Center City Church were encouraged by those who stayed for friendship and companionship.

Through a partnership with Blair County Food Drive, Downtown Church organized a free Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday that allowed residents to break bread and build relationships.

“This is just a chance for anyone, regardless of your status, to sit down and enjoy a nice turkey dinner.” said Pastor Jim Kilmartin of Downtown Church. “We just wanted to help somewhere people go and have positive interactions with others.”

Dinner was held in the church hall of the church, which was recently renovated.

Kilmartin said church members have wanted to open the community friendship hall for more than a year, adding that the congregation was excited to welcome residents from across the county.

“It was not just for those in need. “Anyone who wanted to have company was welcome to join us.” said Angela Yasulitis, a church volunteer. “We really appreciate the service to those in the city and wanted to provide for those in the area.”

About 600 dinners were prepared – a traditional Thanksgiving feast.

Most of the food was donated by local businesses and organizations, and Kilmartin said 95 volunteers signed up to help.

“There are a lot of people here who may not be able to have Thanksgiving with their families this year.” said Kilmartin. “It really warms our hearts that we were able to do that.”

Joshua Lal, an Altoona resident, could not contain his enthusiasm for sitting down and sharing company with others.

He said he was particularly excited to share God’s word with others and to get to know the people in his community better.

“It is wonderful that the community can be part of the blessing the Lord has given us.” tha Lal. “It’s really a joy to see all these people coming under one roof and enjoying a hot meal together.”

Although company was at the forefront of dinner, oral dinners were also available at no cost.

With a full stomach and even fuller hearts, the event organizers said they were “Beyond satisfied” with the way the dinner went and hinted that future community dinners might be at work.

“People are truly the heart of our community,” tha Yasulitis. “We want to continue to serve the people of Altoona in every way we can.”

Mirror Staff writer Calem Illig is at 814-946-7535.

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