Thanksgiving meals a gift for the givers in North Myrtle Beach

Chris Rohan walked up to a visitor at the church early Thursday afternoon, her shoulders sagging, and said with that I’m-so-tired-I-could-drop-right-here-and-now kind of smile, “I could barely get out of my car last night.”

No wonder.

Rohan and her three cohorts – Anita Muise, Lil Hammarstrom and Kate Zorka - had begun cooking and slicing turkeys, 20 of them, at 9 a.m. Wednesday and didn’t stop until 7 p.m.

Even as she declared her weariness, Rohan knew that the aches, pains and sags would disappear as soon as the 250 guests started coming into the banquet hall of Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in North Myrtle Beach. For the second year now, the three had organized a Thanksgiving feast for the people they feed regularly at the church’s once-a-week soup kitchen and single parishioners who wouldn’t prepare the meal just for themselves.

“It’s so fulfilling when you see the people here, how appreciative they are,” said Zorka, the leader of the effort.

For three months, the ladies are thinking about or working on the special dinner. First they must plan the menu and figure how much of each thing to buy. Then committees of volunteers are formed who will help with such things as decorating and setting the tables, serving the food and cleaning up afterward. Then there is food – a lot of it – to be purchased. This year, the ladies wanted it known, soup kitchen coordinators Harry and Marlene Walker did much of the buying.

Then comes the cooking.

The ladies said there’s no problem getting other parishioners to volunteer to help them out.

“I think a lot of people on Thanksgiving want to reach out, want to help,” Muise said.

Hammarstrom is headed to Ghana soon for a new chapter in her life and may not get back for another Thanksgiving with her buddies.

“I’m thankful I can do this,” she said.

The meal for the needy at Our Lady Star of the Sea Thursday was one of a number of similar feasts held along the Grand Strand, and each had volunteers pitching in just like the dozens in North Myrtle Beach.

Zorka said most of the food at the feast is bought from local merchants. The pumpkin and apple pies were made from scratch last year, but bought from Sam’s this year, one of the changes the ladies made to the day. They get some donations, although most of what is donated comes from parishioners.

Everybody is hitting up merchants for donations this time of year, Zorka said, so she can understand they have to draw the line somewhere.

Rohan said the hectic pace of the final two days, while draining, is by design.

“We don’t like cooking a lot ahead,” she said. “We want everything to be fresh.”