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Thanksgiving Dinner Effort Brings Community Together
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Volunteers in the kitchen at the Escalon Community Center are at the food table, getting the home-delivered meals ready and preparing to serve up hot plates of food for diners at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov. 24. Marg Jackson/The Times

With just under 450 meals served in total, there were well over 300 home-delivered and picked up ‘to go’ while nearly 100 people dined in.

The setting was the Escalon Community Center, the event the traditional Community Thanksgiving Dinner, served on Thursday, Nov. 24.

Handling the coordination of the home-delivered and take-out meals was DeeAnna Jackson, who had several members of her family on hand to help out as well.

“These are for people that called ahead,” she said of the assembly-line style of packing boxes full of containers of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, rolls, salad and pumpkin pie.

Many of those were delivered to shut-ins, the elderly or those that couldn’t get to the Community Center for the Thursday meal. Others called in orders to pick up themselves and take home to eat with family.

Jackson said while she’s glad people are enjoying the dinner and they are definitely filling a need, she hopes next year that more people that are able to come and dine in person will do so, rather than picking up the meal to take home.

“The point of this when it started was to bring people together, to bring the community together,” she pointed out. “We want you to come here with your family and let us serve you.”

There were plenty of volunteers on hand to do the serving for those choosing to dine in this year. A full kitchen crew, overseen by Cody Blevins and Pam Mendez, kept the plates of food coming and handled the many take-out orders.

For diners sitting down inside the Community Center, volunteers served as waiters and waitresses, taking dinner orders and making sure diners had enough beverages, second helpings if they wanted them, and dessert.

At the dessert table, John Tivald, his wife Ruth and daughter Chelsey were all making sure the slices of pumpkin pie were ready for serving, complete with the whipped topping.

“We came to help because it’s close,” Tivald, a Linden resident, said. “We also attend Heritage church.”

The nearby Heritage was among one of the local churches helping to finance the meal, as it is done through the Escalon Ministerial Association. There is no cost for the meal, though some diners do make donations.

Longtime resident Anice Beary enjoyed sharing the day and dinner conversation with friends Casey and Dave Den Ouden, the brothers attending the community meal for years.

Co-coordinator Laramie Blevins said they worked once again this year with the Institute of Technology in nearby Modesto to put on the meal.

“The culinary class does all the cooking and the criminal justice class helped with the set up,” Blevins explained of getting the meal and dining area prepared.

Among the young volunteers was Isaiah Kennedie, Jackson’s grandson, who was happy to make sure all the home-delivered boxes had the right amount of meals.

“Just serving the community,” the 10-year-old said of what he enjoys.

Plus, when he gets the chance to eat his Thanksgiving dinner when all the work is done, he definitely has his favorite part.

“Stuffing. If you gave me a whole tray of stuffing, I’d eat it all in one sitting.”

Friends Hannah Blevins, 10, and Analisa Rendon, 8, both said they enjoyed “serving people” and “helping out” at the dinner.

The delivery volunteers made several stops around the community, from single family homes to mobile home parks and many were delivered across the street from the Community Center to those at Heritage House senior complex.

And for those dining in, all agreed it was a filling and flavorful traditional holiday meal.

“Thank God for the ability and health to continue and coordinate this event. No one should eat alone on Thanksgiving,” said Jackson. “Thank you also to all the volunteers and for the donations; we would not be able to bless so many without all the volunteers to make this happen. Thank you to Laramie for co-coordinating.”

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Diners were invited to come in and share a Thanksgiving dinner with friends, neighbors, families and newfound friends on Thursday, Nov. 24 at the Escalon Community Center. A hot holiday meal was served up, fresh and free of charge, with some meals also home delivered and others pick up to go. Marg Jackson/The Times