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Hundreds Dine Together For Holiday
Plates heaped high with hot, fresh turkey and mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, stuffing and more made their way all around the Escalon Community Center on Thursday, with diners coming in to share the Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

Not only did the center play host to dozens of diners, crews also fanned out around the community to deliver meals to the elderly and shut ins, while other people came to the center to pick up their own dinners to take home.

Organizer Bev Arnold said between the eat in, take out and home delivered meals, an estimated 350 to 375 Thanksgiving dinners were served.

"I come not only for the wonderful, good food but also the fellowship," said River Road resident Aral Braman. "I think this was my fourth or fifth time I've come to this."

First time volunteer delivery driver Tina Jensen and her daughter Heidi stayed busy, spending time with each meal recipient they delivered to on the day.

"We probably did about eight deliveries. We take forever but it was fun, we talk to them and make sure they have everything okay," Jensen said of making sure the elderly are all set to enjoy their dinner before leaving. "It felt good. We got so much out of it ... I'm glad we did this."

Offered to all, free of charge, the full Thanksgiving dinner started with the salad course, on to the plate full of traditional Thanksgiving favorites, topped off with pumpkin or pecan pie.

"The best part of the meal?" Dee Mostowski repeated in answer to a question posed to her. "I don't know, it was all good. I never expected it to be like this."

'Like this' meant more food than most people could finish in one sitting, with 'to go' containers given to those who had built in leftovers to take home from their initial plate of food. There was plenty for seconds, if people wanted more, and those attending could also take a second meal home with them if they chose. Many diners opted to make a donation to the Escalon Ministerial Association, which finances the meal, but no one was asked for one.

"The Ministerial Association is wonderful," Mostowski said. "Our community is lucky. This is more than community outreach ... this is just plain love."

Husband John Mostowski said the two thoroughly enjoyed their first visit to the Community Thanksgiving Dinner, and he was able to visit with neighbors and friends, catching up before sitting down to eat.

"Tommy does a wonderful job," he noted of head chef Tommy Joyce, who volunteers his time to cook up the dinner.

Brothers Emilio, 12, and Caleb Aguilar, 9, both were impressed with the heaping amount of food on their plates and each admitted to liking the mashed potatoes the best.

Among those volunteering were Robbie and Jeannine Proudfoot, who said giving some time to help out really brought meaning to the day.

"As long as we're in town, we're here," Jeannine said of volunteering in the future.

"We went on deliveries, I enjoyed delivering the meals to the senior citizens," added Robbie.

Helping coordinate the deliveries was DeAnna Jackson, who said there were 104 called in ahead of time and about 152 home delivered and 'take out' meals altogether by the end of the day, not including those diners who also took a second dinner home with them.

"It was pretty crazy," she said of the fast and furious deliveries, smiling.

Diane Bice, who now lives in Riverbank but used to live on Henry Road and has many friends still here, said the food and fellowship is the perfect mix for the holiday.

"We appreciate everybody taking time out of their day," she said of the volunteers putting on the dinner.

From the kitchen crew to the food servers, coffee and dessert table workers to the delivery drivers, all volunteered their time as a way of giving back to their community on the holiday. Many also shared the meal together after the rush of diners was over.

"It was fantastic," said Arnold. "We served over 350 meals, broke records again."