It was the biggest it has ever been. So big, in fact, that they had to make an emergency run for more turkey.
The annual Escalon Community Thanksgiving Dinner, underwritten by the Escalon Ministerial Association, saw more than 400 dinners served up on Thursday, Nov. 26.
“The need is great this year, a lot of people are hurting,” said Dianna Dunn, who helped coordinate the annual event. She and DeeAnna Jackson worked cooperatively to organize the deliveries and curbside effort.
Jackson oversees the home delivery to those shut-ins and elderly who can’t get out for the dinner. Dunn helped keep the curbside pick-up going smoothly, as there was no ‘eat in’ option offered this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dunn said that, between the sign-ups prior to Thursday for the home delivery and pick-up, another 100 or so drive-thru meals were served. The final total count for the day was 436.
Traditionally, the Thanksgiving effort has seen around 300 to 325 meals served, between those choosing to eat in, take it to go or have it delivered.
“We’ve got orders coming out of our ears,” Dunn said early Thursday afternoon.
Jackson said the home deliveries, which were signed up for in advance, totaled 211 this year, up from an average of around 200. Those that called in to schedule a pick-up of the curbside ‘to go’ dinners was 113, she added.
“So we were at 324 before we even started,” she said of having more diners drive thru on Thursday. “Many of the people that called in are those that usually eat in.”
The meal served up features all the Thanksgiving staples, turkey, potatoes, gravy, dressing, green beans, salad, roll and pie.
They went through 435 pounds of turkey and had to make a quick trip to MarVal Main Street Market for six more pre-cooked birds to heat and slice up for the onslaught of diners. Most of the meals held out, though the final ‘to go’ orders went without pie and rolls, but had most of the traditional fixin’s for a holiday dinner.
“I maybe have run out of ranch dressing (in the past) but never out of pie and bread,” Jackson noted. “We’ve always had leftovers.”
Dunn and Jackson said the traffic flow for the drive-thru eventually got into a smooth rhythm, even though it took a little bit of re-positioning of traffic cones for direction, as it was the first time for so many vehicles to be coming and going from the Community Center to pick up the dinner.
Most of the home deliveries, taken out by volunteer drivers, went around Escalon, though a few went out as far as Collegeville, Jackson said.
And as far as running out of a few items, she said it just seemed to go along with everything happening right now.
“It’s all a learning thing,” she explained. “It’s COVID, it’s 2020.”
Dunn gave kudos to the Escalon Ministerial Association for providing the funding for the community dinner, residents who made donations and also thanked all the volunteers – from those students and instructors who cooked the dinner to those who helped set up, deliver, and clean up.
Among the volunteers busy in the kitchen was Tracey Miller, who with husband Jamee and sons Jamin and Josh, was happy to be part of the community dinner effort.
“This is what we wanted to do for Thanksgiving,” Tracey said. “It makes my heart happy.”