The Mayer family announced that they will be passing the torch of the annual Free Community Thanksgiving dinner after 18 years.

After some hard deliberation, Lesa and Mark Mayer of Boonville have decided to hand the reins of the dinner over to several community and church organizations for next year, including The Streams Ministry, Severant Fellowship Church, The Knights of Columbus, Hemenway Presbyterian Church and St. Clement Church.

"They all have come together to form the administrative committee," Lesa Mayer said, "So they will organize next year."

Lesa Mayer said even though they are no longer organizing the annual Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner, the dinner will still go on.

"We joke there is one little lady who is 101 years old who received our first meal. When she's gone, we're done," she said.

Each year, the Mayers wrangle dozens of volunteers together to package and deliver Thanksgiving meals to families and individuals in need.

This year, nearly 100 volunteers prepared meals at St. Clement Church in Boonville and delivered 360 meals -- a menu that included turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, a roll and a choice of pumpkin pie or chocolate cake.

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Lesa Mayer said they had an usual treat in volunteers this year.

"A huge group from the Refuge Christian Church came and filled the volunteer spots," she said. "Normally, it's individuals from all over so that was something that was new and different."

Mayer said these meals especially help out the elderly in Warrick County.

"Meals on Wheels doesn't run on the weekend so a lot of the elderly ones will order two meals," she said. "And that will get them through the weekend and we are perfectly fine with that."

Mayer said she and her husband Mark, their daughter Megan Barnhill, son Elijah Mayer and daughter-in-law Jamie Mayer, started the dinner as a small group back in 2001.

"We wanted to do some outreach for Thanksgiving at Studio Bee," she said. "And over the years, it has evolved and gotten bigger and bigger."

But Lesa Mayer said the intention was not necessarily a feeding program.

"It was, but we saw that there were elderly people especially that were lonely, so it's more about the visiting and the smile they receive that day," she said. "It's more about them not being alone on Thanksgiving. We really feel like we're called to visit the lonely and feed the hungry, so that's where the whole outreach came from -- so no one was alone and had at least a little bit of sunshine on Thanksgiving Day."

Lesa Mayer said she and her family made the tough decision to take a step back from the dinner after 18 years, due to their busy schedules running three businesses.

"Between all of us, we own three businesses: Shabby Sheek, 2nd Street Sweets and Barn on the Hill," she said. "And all of our guys work full-time so we realized this year that we had to ask for help. So we are going to take a very back seat from this point on, at least for next year."

Even though they are stepping back, Mayer said the family will still be involved with the dinner.

"To be perfectly honest, Mark and I might just show up and deliver for the first time next year," she said.

Lesa Mayer said sending the community dinner off to new organizations feels like they are sending their kid off to college.

"You know just like when your children grow up and other people are going to have influence on their lives and you are not there to oversee them, every detail of their life anymore," she said. "But it's OK because we've raised the child and it's a good child and can stand on its own at this point."

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