By Bruce Stambaugh
Gloria Yoder, 61, never ventured far from where her ancestors settled in Holmes County in the early 19th century. That’s just fine by her.
Based on what she has done and continues to do, the community is the better for it, too. In this case, the residents in and around the little town of Mt. Hope are the beneficiaries.
Yoder grew up on the family homestead on McClure Hill just west of Mt. Hope. McClure was her maiden name. Eli, her husband, was raised on a neighboring farm. They have been married 42 years.
The Yoder’s operate two popular area businesses. Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen in Mt. Hope is noted for its hardy breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. Yoder’s Amish Home near Trail, where they live, is a noted destination for tourists. She also operates the restaurant at the Mt. Hope Auction March through October.
Gloria has a keen sense of combining business with community service. She sees a commitment to community at the Holmes County Fair. She annually purchases prized and award winning animals at the fair’s Junior Livestock Auction.
“I like to help out the kids who work so hard with their animals,” she said while waiting to bid at this year’s fair sale. Of course, Gloria has a personal stake in the event. She was a 4-H’er herself and served 20 years as the advisor for two different 4-H clubs.
This year Gloria purchased the grand champion pen of three hens, the grand champion market turkey, a lamb, three hogs and several rabbits. That alone helped a number of 4-H participants. But Yoder doesn’t stop there.
Each year, Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen offers a special fair buffet featuring the animals she has purchased. The buffet will be this Wednesday, September 29 from 3 to 8 p.m.
“We have people who come from as far as Cincinnati for our buffets,” Yoder said. She also calls a list of people who live out of town, and some out of state, to tell them when the buffet will be offered.
This year’s fair buffet will feature barbecued rabbit, roasted leg of lamb, smoked turkey, pan-fried chicken and beef tenderloin. Yoder said she expects about 500 customers for the buffet.
But Gloria’s life ranges far beyond the confines of her restaurant. She spends much of her time assisting with and organizing for community activities.
Besides supporting the 4-H program, she faithfully serves in the small United Methodist congregation in Mt. Hope. That includes organizing and recruiting help for the annual pancake and sausage meal held each April.
Gloria helps with the egg hunt each spring, and orchestrates the parade and live nativity scene each Christmas season. Local school children enjoy playing the different parts of the sacred story. Over the years, she said group singing was added, and last year the community held a special fundraiser for a local family in need.
“Our young people are our future,” she said plainly but sincerely. “Whatever little bit I can do to help, I will.”
As a leader in the Mt. Hope Merchants Association, she also helps make the annual July Sundown Sale successful and purposeful. This year, for example, a dollar from every meal sold along with money from the volleyball teams were donated to needy families in the Mt. Hope area.
Gloria has some very personal reasons for being so involved in the community. Only months after her only child, Trent, was born in 1972, Gloria spent three months in the hospital in Columbus.
In 1983, she had a serious car accident in Berlin, and just two years ago Gloria was diagnosed with blood clots in both lungs. She hasn’t forgotten how the community responded to her needs and those of her family.
“I feel very fortunate to be alive,” she said. “God has been watching over me, and evidently still has some purpose for me in life.”
“Once you face death,” Gloria continued, “everything takes on a new meaning. I have felt the community of caring.”
In spite of her busyness, Gloria does find time for herself. She enjoys gardening, and trying new recipes. It’s no wonder, given the fact that she has a collection of 250 cookbooks.
“I enjoy reading them,” she said. “You can tell a lot about a church or community by what they include in their cookbook.” Gloria said that if a recipe includes “a pinch” of a certain ingredient, “You know it’s from an old cook.”
Gloria said she remembers when Mt. Hope resembled a ghost town. But in recent years, thanks to the success of area businesses, the little town is booming. And that is just the way Gloria likes it.
This story first appeared in the Holmes Bargain Hunter.