Family of the late Polly Hesler wrapped up the 36th Polly’s Thanksgiving Dinner Thursday afternoon.
The late Polly Hesler explained several years ago that the restaurant she owned initially was closed on Thanksgiving day, until several of the older patrons said they had no where else to go on Thanksgiving. To make sure they weren’t alone on that holiday, she began serving Thanksgiving dinner at her restaurant.
The dinner grew each year, moving to the Rotary Clubhouse more than 20 years ago, and has been held at that site each year, with the exception of last year when the clubhouse was undergoing repairs for flood damage. It is known as Polly’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner, even though the woman whose name it carries died more than 10 years ago.
Mike Hesler, one of Polly Hesler’s children, said he and his other siblings took over the tradition of serving Thanksgiving meals to members of the community.
“After her health got to where she couldn’t physically do it, us four kids sort of took it over and ran it for her,” he said.
According to Mike Hesler, around 775 people came to the Rotary Clubhouse on Thursday, which he said is a pretty average turnout for this event.
“It’s gotten so big we couldn’t do it without all of our volunteers and people donating,” he said. “We’ve had D and A (Wholesale) and Mitsubishi donate all of our turkeys this year.”
With an event that feeds so many people, both through serving food and delivering meals to households, Mike Hesler said it takes a great deal of help from the community, which seems all too happy to help its fellow man.
“We get so many volunteers, they look forward to doing this,” he said. “We’ve got men that’ve been doing it for 15 years or more — all they want to do is come down and peel potatoes and they look forward to doing it.”
To Mike Hesler and his siblings, serving Thanksgiving meals to the community and helping others is not some grand undertaking for them, but simply living out the principals their mother imparted within them.
“We’re not doing this for the publicity,” he said, “if you knew our mom, we’re like that — if you needed a dollar, and she had a dollar left, she’d give you her dollar.”