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Thanksgiving Tradition: Holiday Meals Served Up
The kitchen was a busy place at the Escalon Community Center on Thursday, as hot, tasty traditional Thanksgiving meals were served up for diners. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, salad and pumpkin pie were all featured in the meal, enjoyed by many. Marg Jackson/The Times

The food was hot and tasty, the laughter was flowing, the deliveries went smoothly … and Escalon’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner for 2021 was a success.

Welcoming diners back to the city’s Community Center for a sit-down holiday dinner, there was also a crew that delivered meals to those who couldn’t get in to town and others stopped by to pick up a dinner order for enjoying at home.

First year coordinator Laramie Blevins, who was in charge of the onsite dining, said everything seemed to fall in to place, and organizers were pleased with those taking the opportunity to enjoy the holiday meal.

“We are at about 300 deliveries and to go,” she said, adding that they anticipated another 100 or so to dine in at the Community Center during the event staged on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25.

DeeAnna Jackson headed up the crew that put together the home deliveries and the pick-up orders, that part of the operation also going smoothly. Meals headed the farthest were delivered first, then a group went across the street from the Community Center to the Heritage House senior complex, providing the hot, hearty traditional Thanksgiving dinners to many residents there.

Blevins said the meal was prepared by culinary students from the Institute of Technology in Modesto, while students in the criminal justice program there set up the tables and decorations for the holiday diners.

“People are also donating to the Escalon Ministerial Association,” she said, with that organization sponsoring the meal.

There was no charge to attend, pick up food or have a meal delivered through donations were accepted.

Diner Ria Palesch said she regularly attends the senior meals offered Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Community Center so she was glad to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner to enjoy.

“I think it’s pretty darn nice,” she said.

Volunteer workers Brittany Ryan of Escalon and her seven-year-old daughter Raelyn took orders and delivered plates of food.

“I like all of it,” second grader Raelyn said of helping out.

Young Pete Mares, 12, was preparing the bowls of salad to be delivered to diners while Daron Johnson said the meal itself was “120 percent” – giving it an enthusiastic thumbs up as he enjoyed a plate of turkey and all the Thanksgiving foods.

Friends Weston Blevins, 11, and Noah Nelson, 10, both from Escalon were on hand to clear away the plates and make sure all the diners had what they needed.

“I like that we get to serve the people,” Noah said.

“Me too,” added Weston.

In the kitchen, Cody Blevins was keeping an eye on the food staying warm in the ovens. He said his wife, Laramie, logged plenty of time preparing for the event on Wednesday and the whole family was taking part on Thursday.

Though there were a few hiccups to work out, he said it all turned out fine.

“The team has come together,” he said.

While the tables at the Community Center welcomed a steady stream of diners, Jackson said there were 12 meals prepared for pick up and the rest were deliveries; there were 281 home delivered meals, adding up to 293 for the pick-up and delivery side. She said that was a much higher number than last year, when it was a drive thru event due to the pandemic. Being able to bring diners back inside was also a bonus, as many enjoyed the chance to share the holiday meal.

Also volunteering this year in the dining room was Lesley Killingsworth.

“My grandmother had me doing it,” she said of her youth; this year bringing her daughter Ryan, 10, a fifth grader at Van Allen along to help. “We’re passing on the tradition.”

A volunteer crew gets ready to deliver the boxes full of Thanksgiving meals at the Heritage House senior complex in Escalon, one of the stops for the home-delivered holiday meals distributed throughout the community on Thursday, Nov. 25. There was also a dine-in option this year at the city’s Community Center. Marg Jackson/The Times