Local residents talk about celebrating holiday during COVID-19 pandemic


For most people, this Thanksgiving won’t be celebrated the same as past years.

Some will stay home because of the pandemic, while others will have small gatherings with immediate family only. Those are the lucky ones as hundreds of thousands remain hospitalized from COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised Americans not to travel over the holidays and to avoid large gatherings to prevent the spread of the virus. Local health officials are pleading for people to mask up as hospitals struggle to have enough beds and staff to treat patients.

Although COVID-19 has changed everything we do, from wearing masks to social distancing, the virus doesn’t have to take away the spirit of Thanksgiving which is giving thanks for what we do have.

We have medical professionals working tirelessly around the clock to provide care for the sick. Teachers learning how to educate children virtually to keep them engaged. Local businesses finding new ways to safely serve customers with delivery and curbside pickup. And churches and organizations providing free meals for the hungry.

Joe Persinger of Brownstown plans to spend the holiday at home with his wife, but is thankful for technology that allows him to see and hear from other family members.

“It will just be the two of us for our Thanksgiving meal, but then we’ll visit and chat with our kids and grandkids via Zoom,” he said.

Mary Sentz of Seymour said they are downsizing Thanksgiving this year.

“We had to cancel our big family Thanksgiving dinner in the church fellowship hall,” she said. “Every year, we get to count our blessings and share a meal with 60 to 80 people.”

That meal would consist of two turkeys, huge trays of sage and oyster dressing, homemade noodles, mashed potatoes, pitch-in side dishes and casseroles, eight plates of deviled eggs, and just as many cakes, pies, cookies and other desserts, she said.

“It’s enough to fill four long tables with food,” she said. “We love doing it.”

But she also wants her family to remain healthy and safe so they can come together next Thanksgiving.

“This year, we will only have four at our dinner, but we will still be giving thanks for our many blessings, remembering our wonderful family tradition and looking forward with hope to next year,” she said.

Jess Moss of Seymour said she and her daughters will be volunteering today to bring Thanksgiving meals to people who may not have one otherwise.

“We will be cooking, serving and delivering meals for The Alley Kitchen,” she said. “Figured if I can’t celebrate with family we should at least make sure those less fortunate can.”

Cristyn Milroy isn’t making plans for Thanksgiving, because she is trying to avoid the stress of the holiday and the pandemic.

“I plan on staying home with my daughter and grabbing take out and just relaxing,” she said. “It has been an exhausting year.”

But she will miss having the opportunity to do a little Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving, she said. With many stores choosing to close for the holiday, and concerns with crowds, many people are doing their shopping virtually, having gifts shipped to their homes.

Although it saddens Diane Hirtzel knowing she won’t see all of her family for Thanksgiving, she said future family holidays will be even more appreciated. She also knows it’s a sacrifice worth making.

“I have respect for the fact that our local ICUs are full, and we all need to do our part,” she said. “We will have a get together when things settle down.”

Jodie Smith of Seymour said she will be working Thanksgiving but will have a meal with her husband and two sons at home in the evening.

“We miss our family but better safe than sorry,” she said. “I’m praying Christmas will be better, but who knows?”

Amber Garner, a 911 dispatcher for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, also has to work for the holiday.

“I will be celebrating with my work family,” she said.

As a former EMT with Jackson County EMS, working holidays is something she has come to expect.

This year marks the first time Nancy Franke of Seymour and her family have not all been together for Thanksgiving.

Franke said she will be working over the holiday break in northern Indiana, making sure Amazon can keep up with increasing online orders. She does plan to spend Thanksgiving with one of her grown children, however, she said.

Her husband will be handling the cooking duties at home this year.

“Digger will attempt to make a small turkey for the first time in his life for the few that will be home,” she said.

But Franke said the changes are hopefully a temporary inconvenience and should make people realize how much they take for granted.

“Even though we will be missing some treasured traditions, I am still thankful that in the midst of so much abnormal, we can realize just how much we value and appreciate our loved ones more than ever,” she said.

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