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Ellen Rogers continues a serving tradition at Good News
Clermont councilwoman will make 130 biscuits for charity supper
Ellen Rogers browses through items in the pantry at Good News at Noon on Wednesday morning as she prepares to begin cooking at the shelter on Thanksgiving morning.

For more than a decade, 83-year-old Ellen Rogers has helped the less fortunate have a traditional Thanksgiving meal to eat.

Rogers, a great-grandmother to 18, who won a seat on the Clermont town council last year, will help serve 300 meals at Good News at Noon today.

“She’s a great lady and a fantastic cook,” The Rev. Ed Grant of Good News said. “My favorite is her homemade vegetable soup.”

Though some of the diners may be without a home or a job, the homeless shelter provides them with a classic Thanksgiving meal, which could be found on many dinner tables across the U.S. The meal includes all the trimmings including mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

Rogers usually takes charge of the meal and last year’s organizers hung a sign from the door that read “Today only the Rogers family in the kitchen.” This week, she and volunteers were busy carving 30 pre-cooked turkeys for the shelter’s largest luncheon of the year.

“I think people look forward to it. We always have good food,” she said.

Rogers said she got her start with Good News in the 1990s and said giving has helped her overcome struggles in her own life. When a close family member suffered a head injury after a car wreck, she said, she felt unable to help and wanted to find ways she could make a difference.

“I found that you are the one that gets the blessing from volunteering,” she said.

Every fourth Friday of the month, Rogers helps buy and prepare a restaurant-quality meal for people at the shelter. A smart shopper, Rogers can find grocery store ingredients for more than 100 meals for under $200. Much of the food is prepared in her own kitchen.

“We usually have salmon, chicken or beef and vegetables,” Rogers said. “And I always make 130 biscuits.”

Although Rogers said she has never cooked professionally, she has several years of experience under her belt. Her family calculated she has served more than 82,000 plates to the needy over the years.

Rogers adds that the meals are usually more elaborate than soup and sandwich.

“We want it to be like Sunday dinner at mom’s house,” Rogers said.

Rogers said she ran for office for the first time last year to be a voice of preserving the history and character of Clermont, while opening the town to additional tax revenues from new residents.

Today, Rogers expects to claim a spot in the Good News kitchen, and volunteers predict to see another increase in first-time diners this year.

“It seems like there are more people each year,” Grant said.

“We actually see different people each day. Because of the economy, some people are travelling from state to state to find better jobs. We probably see about two to three new faces a day,” Good News general manager Thomas Ramirez said.

As well as serving major meals for holidays, Good News will provide more than 50,000 lunches to people in need this year, seven days a week. The number has increased from 40,000 meals served last year.

Rogers said most of the food for the Thanksgiving feast is pre-cooked and volunteers will spend the morning heating it up and preparing portions for the first wave of people. She said the ingredients, including the turkeys, were purchased by Gainesville resident Linni Baker.

On Friday, Rogers said she plans to cook her homemade vegetable soup at Good News.

“People can come for a free meal for Thanksgiving and then come in Friday and enjoy the best vegetable soup they’ve ever eaten,” Grant said.

The Thanksgiving meal will be served at 11:30 a.m. today.