Under some new leadership, yet with a dedicated returning group of volunteers, the annual Escalon Community Thanksgiving Dinner went off smoothly, served to hungry diners at the city’s Community Center on Nov. 24.
There were also a number of meals delivered around the community to those that couldn’t get in to town, and some people came in to pick up their holiday meals, taking them home to enjoy there.
First year coordinator Dianna Dunn couldn’t have been more pleased with the way the event came off.
“It was absolutely fantastic,” said Dunn, who helps coordinate the twice-weekly senior meals program at the Community Center.
This was her first time overseeing the Thanksgiving meal, with longtime delivery/takeout coordinator DeeAnna Jackson still handling that side of the effort. Dunn was in the kitchen, in the dining room, meeting and greeting diners. Helping oversee the kitchen crew that plated the food was Renee Snow, while a small army of dining room volunteers made sure those coming in to dine got their food served, hot and fresh.
Volunteer drivers took the home delivered meals out to those in need and a steady stream of diners made their way in to the Community Center as well. Many, said Dunn, provided a donation for the meal although it was offered at no charge.
Aside from the food, which featured everything from the starting salad course to the pumpkin pie for dessert, Dunn said the feeling of camaraderie couldn’t be denied.
“I was pleased with how many people stayed just to visit,” she said of diners socializing long after their plates were cleared away. “We also had people volunteer to stay and help clean.”
On Wednesday, the Community Center was abuzz with activity as well, as preparations were made for the holiday meal, including cooking of the turkeys and the decorating of tables. It all added up to a successful Thanksgiving Day.
“There wasn’t much left,” Dunn admitted, adding that they went through several turkeys on the day.
Some diners even had the chance to take home turkey carcasses to make turkey soup and many of those that volunteered at the event joined together to share a meal once their work was done.
Jackson said there were 178 dinner orders called in ahead of time, either for delivery that day or for people to come pick up for the take out side of the meal.
“We were down a lot of seniors this year,” Jackson said of having fewer senior citizens needing the meal delivered.
She said that was more because they were spending the day with family, however, as she made calls prior to the holiday to see if last year’s recipients needed the meal again. The 178 dinners were distributed among nearly 50 different locations around the community.
“Some people did four or five deliveries,” Jackson added of the volunteer drivers.
She also praised longtime volunteers Marge Price and Bob and Rosita Richway for their efforts behind the scenes in keeping the dinner flowing smoothly.
“They are my right hand,” Jackson said of the trio.
Diners at the Community Center had high praise for the meal, which featured turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans with bacon, cranberry sauce, salad and pie, along with hot and cold beverages.
An estimated 250 people in all enjoyed the holiday dinner, including several dozen that dined in.
“So many people and businesses donated,” added Dunn. “Some people that ate donated, all that will go to the Ministerial Association.”
Escalon Ministerial Association underwrites the community Thanksgiving dinner and it has been an Escalon tradition for well over a decade. Based on the attendance and success of this year’s event, it’s almost certain to return for 2017.
“I really just want to give thanks to God for making this possible,” Dunn said. “For giving us the volunteers, and the ability to help serve in our community.”