HERRIN - Lillian Crain has cooked her share of Thanksgiving meals in her lifetime. But now at the age of 93, the Herrin woman said she is no longer able to take on such projects.

In fact, she rarely gets out of the house anymore as she suffers from a variety of ailments.

Therefore, Crain is grateful that volunteers from the community were willing to deliver to her home Thursday a turkey dinner with all the fixings free of charge. "I really appreciate it," she said. "I like all of the food, but probably enjoy sweets the most. I just have to be careful how much I eat because it runs my blood sugar up too much."

Crain is a diabetic. What bothers her more, she said, is a bum shoulder and broken back, which are holdovers from a fall in the shower two years ago.

"I can't straighten up anymore or walk for any length of time," Crain said. "I used to get out about once a week and go shopping with my granddaughter (Phyllis Law of Herrin), but I hardly ever do that anymore. Now, Phyllis just does my shopping for me. I miss going shopping."

Crain, who was a stay-at-home mother while her late husband, Harry, a contractor, was busy building homes in town, said she stayed active before her fall by cleaning her home and working outdoors in her flower garden.

"I used to also enjoy mowing the grass with our riding lawnmower. About all I ever do now, though, is maybe sweep some leaves from the sidewalk from time to time. My nineties have not been as kind to me as my seventies and eighties."

Carla and Tim Parker of Herrin were two of 68 volunteer workers at the city's community-wide feast Thursday. When not packaging carryout meals, they were delivering meals to the homebound. The Parkers were responsible for distributing 44 of 166 homebound meals, including one to Crain.

"This is our second year as volunteers," Carla Parker said. "I was injured in a car accident five years ago and so many people helped us out. I wanted to find a way to give back to the community."

Parker delivers meals to senior citizens at least once a week through the Williamson County Programs on Aging in addition to her work at the civic center on Thanksgiving.

"My parents are both gone now," she said. "And because I had parents who were older and sick, I understand how needy some are. That's why I like to spend at least five minutes with folks when I deliver their meal. Some have no family, and it might be the only company they get. It makes my day, too, and I'm close to several of them."

For the record, the Ed Quaglia Memorial Thanksgiving Day Dinner may have broken some attendance records Thursday.Volunteer worker Mary Ellen Hall said 1,500 meals were served inside the civic center with an additional 400 carryout dinners, including the homebound residents. Hall said workers began arriving at dawn and were still on the scene cleaning up after 4 p.m.

Event coordinator Bart Mann said the turnout was so huge that a handful of volunteers had to make a mad dash to the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in town to retrieve additional food.

"We were expecting a modest increase, but instead saw an unprecedented number here today," Mann said. "The line stretched out all the way to the front door and then doubled back. We literally ran out of food. We'll be better prepared next year. The VFW was most certainly a lifesaver for us."

VFW spokesman Bob Craig said the club always hosts a Thanksgiving Day meal and that his wife, Vicki Quaglia Craig, the daughter of the late Herrin Mayor Ed Quaglia, helped prepare 15 turkeys.

"We're just glad to be able to help out," Bob Craig said. "We considered it our civic duty."

Vicki Craig concurred. "I think dad would have loved the turnout at the civic center today. Thanksgiving meant a lot to him. I'm honored that Bart Mann and all the volunteers have kept the dinner going in his name."

john.homan@thesouthern.com 618-997-3356 x15807

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