MARION -- When Jeff Diederich and his team of organizers began planning for a community Thanksgiving Dinner, they weren't sure about the number of guests.
"We decided to prepare for 3,000," said Diederich, whose Diederich Foundation, along with the Bonan Fowler Foundation and the City of Marion teamed up with several local businesses to stage the event.
A steady stream of diners filtered through The Pavilion Thursday evening, enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving menu as well as entertainment.
"We served 1,127 meals," said Diederich.
Even though that number was less than expected Diederich is very happy with the outcome.
"I think now that people have experienced it, it will grow," he said.
Cody Moake agrees.
"I thought it was excellent," said Moake, who is Chief of Staff for Marion Mayor Mike Absher, who volunteered to work on a serving team for the event.
"For this being the first year it exceeded expectations," he said. "It gives up something to grow on."
Moake said the city is "definitely on board for next year."
In fact, Diederich is already planning for that event.
He and Moake agreed that an earlier start will help.
"This just came together in a month," said Moake. "That just adds to the impressiveness of the event. Jeff did a great job of dotting the Is and crossing the Ts and getting the teams together.
Diederich said organization was the key to the success, as well as community involvement.
"I had everything organized," he said. "But having so many volunteers come forward and the local businesses and organizations that stepped up to help made everything possible."
Diederich said for next year's event he will coordinate with various nursing homes, social service agencies, and shelters.
"I can completely see our volume double as the news spreads," he said.
He also pointed out that having several area restaurants step up to help with the "round up" was invaluable.
Local restaurants including Bennie's, Tequila's, Walt's, KB's BBQ, 20's Hideout Steakhouse, The Vault, and La Fiesta offered patrons an option to "round up" their bill to the nearest dollar, with proceeds helping to offset the cost of the dinner.
The city donated the use of The Pavilion and staff. The Marion Elk's Lodge 800 prepared the turkeys. Club VIP DJ provided sound and entertainment along with Philip Fritts and Kaitie Done.
Rides Mass Transit ran shuttle service to and from the venue. Sprehe Family Foundation provided decorations for the event.
Pepsi MidAmerica provided beverages and La Galeria Mexican Cuisine & Creamery provided ice cream during the event.
Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) worked with Diederich on the event. "This is what we wanted when we started Heaven's Kitchen," he told the crowd at the dinner. "It's about coming together in fellowship."
Diederich said that nothing went to waste.
"We froze some that will be used at Heaven's Kitchen Marion this week," he said. "We also donated food to some local shelters."
Diederich said he is pleased with the event and is already working on next year's dinner.