Hundreds of volunteers are preparing to serve what is believed to be the largest annual free Thanksgiving dinner in Iowa. The Parks Community Thanksgiving Dinner has been held at Chuck’s Restaurant in Des Moines since 1992. Linda Tullis coordinates the event which is open to anyone.

“We’re trying to reach out to everybody that needs a meal,” Tullis said. “There are people who have no car or money to prepare a meal, so that’s what we’re here for.” The Parks Community Thanksgiving Dinner got its start in 1984 when a group of churches banded together to serve dinners for people in need.

Just 60 meals were made and delivered to homes that first year. Now, more than 3,000 meals are served each year and they’re paid for entirely through donations. Tullis says they rarely have a problem raising the needed funds. “We did in years past, but I think the word has gotten out and that’s the only way we work is strictly through donations. This is how it grows and that’s why last year we were able to serve 3,300 dinners,” Tullis said.

Many of the meals will be delivered, while others will be served at the restaurant between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thanksgiving day.

The meal includes turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, dressing, green beans, cranberry sauce, a roll and a piece of pie. Around 500 individuals, non-profit groups and businesses support the program with donations of money, food and talents.