Twenty-one turkeys, 125 pounds of potatoes, 100 pounds of dressing and about 120 pounds of green beans.
Just your average Thanksgiving dinner.
Escalon resident Robin Jones took on the task this year of cooking up the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner in Escalon, bringing in plenty of family members to help prepare and serve the meal. Volunteers also gathered at the Escalon Community Center on Thursday, Nov. 26 to help make the holiday memorable for diners.
There were people coming to dine in, there were home delivered meals and many people chose to come to the Community Center and take out their dinner, getting it packaged in a ‘to go’ box and enjoying the meal at home.
“Our cooking crew is our family,” said Jones, who was directing things in the kitchen shortly before noon on Thursday.
She said she had seen a request for assistance with the dinner on Facebook and answered the call, enlisting the help of her family for the day. She was happy to help out, and had the assembly-line style meal servers working in top form.
“It’s very good,” noted diner Don Cantwell, enjoying a plate of steaming hot turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans and more.
“I don’t want to cook,” added Linda Nunez, who also said the holiday meal served up was hard to beat.
“I have come before, many times,” said Cathy Ensley, who shared their table. “This is a wonderful thing they do for the community.”
Coordinators of the annual meal include Kim Rigg and DeAnna Jackson, with Rigg organizing the onsite service, Jackson taking care of the ‘to go’ and home delivery services.
Among those taking meals to residents that couldn’t get to the Community Center were members of the Escalon High School varsity football team, in what has become a team tradition.
“It’s nice, they get all happy,” said Trenton Busch of how local residents greet players when they arrive on the doorstep bringing a hot meal. “We just kind of talk to them for a while, be friendly. I really enjoy it; it’s what the holiday is all about.”
Teammate Logan Widmer, who was ready to head out on more deliveries, agreed.
“I just love helping out,” he said. “It’s great, being able to make their day.”
Local resident Marge Price was at her normal station, helping co-worker Robert Richway put together salads for the eat-in crowd.
“We did a lot,” she said of dishing up salads.
Volunteering at the dinner is often a family affair, as workers take orders, fill water glasses and coffee cups, share a smile and some conversation. Bruce and Jayne Campbell were on hand to work the dining room this year, sporting festive orange shirts with a turkey logo on the back, shirts they had worn previously when they helped with holiday food deliveries through Big Valley Grace Church.
“I just like the opportunity of giving back to our community,” said Campbell.
Brothers Dave and Casey DenOuden have been attending for years and said they always enjoy the camaraderie and the meal.
“We always have at least as many take outs and deliveries than dine in, usually more,” noted Kim Rigg of the major task of putting on the meal. “And I am so thankful for Robin; it was a big job.”
Organizers said as best they could remember, the Thanksgiving dinner has been going for about 16 years.
“This event is put on by the Escalon Ministerial Association and is all volunteers and donations and God’s will – without God’s guidance and these things this event would not be available,” said Jackson. “I would like to thank the guests and home delivery residents for allowing us to serve you. I would like to also thank all that volunteered their time in preparing, the kitchen crew, set up and decorators, clean-up crew and my crew that helps me with preparing the food for the delivery boxes and all the volunteers that delivered and helped serve at the hall.”
Jackson noted that there were some businesses in both Escalon and Oakdale that came through with emergency donations at the 11th hour this year, as funds for the dinner through the Ministerial Association ran low.
“If you would like to donate please send to the Escalon Ministerial Association,” Jackson said.
Donations sent in to P.O. Box 1, Escalon, CA 95320 with ‘Thanksgiving’ in the memo line will replenish that fund to help put on next year’s dinner as well.
This year, noted Jackson, there were 178 meals for delivery and take out, compared to 119 in 2014. Many more joined in to eat the dinner at the Community Center, with well over 200 total meals served up for residents.
“Thanks be to God for an awesome Thanksgiving,” Jackson said.