A Very Martin Thanksgiving

A Look Inside Thanksgiving with the Martins

Melvin & Dorothy - The Patriarchs of the Family.

Melvin & Dorothy - The Patriarchs of the Family.

By: Kendra Martin, Camp Hebron Program Staff Extraordinaire

The Creekside building at Camp Hebron has been hosting the Melvin & Dorothy Martin descendants’ annual Thanksgiving gathering for 3 years and counting. A few stats:  Melvin & Dorothy have been married for 66 years. They have 4 children + 4 in-laws, 18 grandchildren + 10 spouses, 28 great-grandchildren + 2 in the oven. Add in spouses and we could have a grand total of 66 in attendance. This year totaled 51. For a family of our size, we focus on all gathering for Thanksgiving which allows Christmas as a time for families to gather in smaller sizes. 

Creekside  has plenty of space for a long family table

Creekside has plenty of space for a long family table

When asked to share what spending Thanksgiving at Camp Hebron means for my family, at first I didn’t think there was much of a story.  Being a Camp Hebron staff member allows us to use the facility as a benefit and it is centrally located between the majority of our homes in Lancaster and Snyder Counties.  As I thought more deeply on the subject I realized there may be more below the surface of what Camp Hebron means to some parties in the group. I decided the best method was to do some interviews.  Here are my findings…

Question: What is special for you to come to Camp Hebron for Thanksgiving?

Kendal (age 4): Playing with Joelle & Levi [2nd cousins]

Dorothy (age 89- the matriarch): The menu can’t be beat! [I totally agree Grandma!]

Pam (age 44): Sentimental. Dwight [husband!] & I started dating here. We both came to work on summer staff

Kinley (age 2): Pap & Gwam-mah [Grandma]


Dwight (age 51): Connecting with family the few times a year we can since we live a few hours away; I worked here a few summers; romantic (in both the classical sense and relationship-wise!); various church & family connections. 

Oldest to Youngest -Melvin & Tirzah (4 months).

Oldest to Youngest -Melvin & Tirzah (4 months).

Herb (age 35): It takes the pressure off of one person/family to host it at their house.  We can unwind and disconnect from the distractions of home. The location in the woods helps us to be present with each other. 

Phyllis (age 57): Very nostalgic. I first served on summer staff in the late 70’s. The 4-day backpacking and challenge course without showering and a whole solo day were challenging but fond memories. I feel as though I’m as much a part of the Camp Hebron alumni as it is a part of me. 

Children enjoying the kids table, toys and all

Children enjoying the kids table, toys and all

We find the space to be an ideal fit.  It’s all one level so aging knees don’t need to use steps.  Everyone is in one room – long tables to eat and talk around, couches in a corner for those who feel the effects of the turkey, toys to keep the little ones occupied and squabbling over what’s “mine!”, and buffet tables of bountiful food. Camp Hebron also provides ample space for a walk in the beautiful woods to delay the effects of the tryptophan. That, and the boys did well with some time outside. Our menu featured traditional PA Dutch Mennonite cooking:  turkey, baked corn, caramelized sweet potatoes, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, rolls.  Dessert was highlighted by pumpkin ice cream cake w/ graham cracker crust, pecan pie, blueberry angel food cake dessert and pumpkin pie. No one went hungry!

I’m so grateful for a family who loves the Lord. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25. We fellowship around food and a national holiday but more so we gather under the abundant blessings of our Savior Jesus and I collapse onto the couch in the evening full – of food, new memories, laughs, and love.