By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Thanksgiving for Barney and Sheila Boos used to mean a family dinner at home.

But with their children grown, it didn't always happen that way any more.

So when Barney Boos was asked to volunteer at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner four years ago, he said yes.

It's "a great way just to help the community out," he said. "They put me on the serving line, and I got to meet a lot of interesting people. It was a lot of fun."

Sheila was recuperating from knee surgery and couldn't join him that first year, but signed up for the next year.

Now it's a holiday tradition.

"God has given us so many blessings," Sheila Boos said. "It's just another way to say thank you to him and to the community that we belong to."

The couple is among the more than 100 volunteers who participate every year.

Along with setting out the food and getting the tables ready, the volunteers "pray before the people come in, and it just kind of sets the tone," Sheila Boos said.

Everyone is welcome to attend the dinner, and many come year after year.

One of the things that draws Barney Boos back every year is that some diners would spend the holiday alone if it wasn't for the community dinner.

They "come down there because it's simple, it's easy, and they're around other families," he said.

The couple has four children, Bill Boos, B.J. Boos, Kristen Sloan and John Boos, and two grandchildren, Gracie Sloan, 7, and Layton Sloan, 4.

Helping with the community dinner hasn't kept them from spending the holiday with their own children.

"We get together at the end, and we enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner with them," Sheila Boos said.

Last year, an estimated 350 diners attended the event.

"It's not just a small community event. It's a northwest Kansas event," Barney Boos said. "Besides free food, it's just a nice time to gather."

The couple, who has lived in Hays since 1993, owns and operates a local taxi service, and has a taxi available for those who need a ride to or from the dinner.

"We enjoy it. We look forward to it every year," he said of the dinner.