On Thanksgiving, many Brown County residents will spend the day with family, friends and loved ones, eating good food and cheering the Cowboys from the couch.   

But not everyone is so fortunate — and some just don’t want to cook. Whatever the reason, Howard Payne University invites the community to its 34th annual Thanksgiving Feast at the Mabee University Center on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.   

Bill Fishback is the university’s associate vice president for business and human resources, and has coordinated the Community Thanksgiving Feast for 25 years. He said the annual meal is one of HPU’s most public examples of its outreach and service mission. “It’s about the core values of serving others as Christ would want us to serve,” Fishback said. “Any time we can get people on campus for a good experience, we like to do that.”   

Fishback estimates that somewhere between 2,000 and 2,200 meals will be served on Thursday, with more than 100 volunteers helping out. Some of the volunteers will assist by delivering meals to area residents who can’t make it to campus. “In fact,” Fishback said, “two-thirds of the meals will go off campus. We’ll probably have around 600 or 650 people who actually eat here.”   

The meal will include traditional Thanksgiving turkey and sides prepared by HPU’s Sodexo food service team. “Our goal is to get the food delivered while it’s still warm,” Fishback said of the home deliveries. “They do a great job of getting the food out fast.”   

He said the people, from diners to volunteers, are his favorite part of coordinating the event. “You’ll see people from every walk of life sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, just visiting with each other and eating a great meal. It’s fun taking a step back — it’s like an anthill with people running every which way. To sit back and watch all the interaction going on, from the little bitty kids to the elderly, makes it a really fun community event.”   

Fishback said those who wish to support the annual meal can do so in collection baskets at the door of the meal or by sending a check to the university at his attention. “I really don’t even like having [the baskets] there. I don’t want people to feel like they have to give,” Fishback said. “But through the years I’ve learned there are so many people who want to help, that I finally put a basket out there so I wouldn’t have to hold it all myself.   

“I tell people that if they don’t want to shop, cook and clean, come eat with us. We’re happy to have anyone and everyone join us.”   

The Mabee University Center is located 1219 Fisk St. in the heart of the HPU campus. The Community Thanksgiving Feast is free and open to all.