Thanksgiving dinner event invites community participation
Thanksgiving is the time for families to gather with friends and loved ones to celebrate the bounty of the season and give thanks for their blessings. And as this year's holiday fast approaches, a broad-based group of community volunteers is plan...
Thanksgiving is the time for families to gather with friends and loved ones to celebrate the bounty of the season and give thanks for their blessings. And as this year's holiday fast approaches, a broad-based group of community volunteers is planning to make the holiday festive for as many folks as possible.
Volunteers from throughout Carlton County will once again join forces with The College of St. Scholastica to present the Second Annual Free Thanksgiving Buffet on Thursday, Nov. 22, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Cloquet National Guard Armory.
"This event is intended for anybody and everybody," said volunteer Kay Zeadow, "and we want everyone to come and enjoy."
Homebound persons who live within a 10-mile radius of the Armory are invited to call 723-6484 by Nov. 16 to request a home-delivered meal.
Among the organizations helping to organize and put on this year's community Thanksgiving event are the United Way of Carlton County and the Salvation Army.
"The Salvation Army is putting their efforts and resources into the Thanksgiving community meal," said Captain Tim Gardner, "which means that we will not be handing out Thanksgiving baskets this year. We believe in this effort and want to help all we can to supply a hot meal, not only for those in need but also for those who simply want to spend a nice Thanksgiving meal with others. This is why we have decided to team up with other businesses and nonprofits to make this happen."
The event first got under way in Cloquet last year through the inspiration and support of the Community Outreach Program at the College of St. Scholastica (CSS), which has helped host similar events in Duluth and Two Harbors for the past several years.
Over the years since, thousands of area residents have had a hot Thanksgiving dinner thanks to CSS, who prepares all the food, as well as community sponsors and scores of volunteers who help put on this all-inclusive community event.
The local event hosted some 200 holiday diners in the Cloquet Armory last year, and Carol Longseth of the United Way of Carlton County said many more are anticipated for this year's dinner.
"This proved to be a wonderful community event last year," Longseth said, "and now, with a year's experience under our belts, it should be even bigger and better."
Longseth said in addition to providing a full Thanksgiving dinner, this year's event will include holiday entertainment, decorations, visits with Santa and free giveaways for children.
Local pianist and vocalist Liz Sinisalo will perform throughout the afternoon, along with student Tara Longseth. Kids will have plenty of time to deliver their Christmas wish lists to Santa in person, and free photos will be taken. Children ages 10 and under will receive story books, and children kindergarten age and under will take home free coloring books.
Organizers stress that the wide base of support for the event reflects its community-minded focus, with area school children and Girl Scouts creating decorations, Cloquet Greenhouse supplying arrangements for the buffet tables, the Senior Center supplying the ovens to keep the food warm and B&B Market transporting the food.
Members of the Cloquet Fire Department will help deliver meals to the homebound.
Following the dinner, leftovers will be packaged and frozen and then donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank to be distributed through the local Outreach Center and Salvation Army.
Zeadow stressed that no free will donations will be solicited or accepted the day of the Thanksgiving event.
"We just want everyone to come and enjoy," she said.
Volunteers and donations are still needed to help in all phases of putting on the community dinner.
"There are still many volunteer opportunities available for Wednesday, Nov. 21 (set up and food preparation), Thursday, Nov. 22 (food preparation, transportation and servers) and Friday, Nov. 23 (cleanup and food packaging)," said Deb Lindemood of Volunteer Services of Carlton County.
Anyone willing to help out can call Lindemood at 879-9238 to sign up. Volunteers must be registered before Thanksgiving Day. In addition, monetary donations to help out with the event can be made to: Volunteer Services of Carlton County, 1219 14th Street, Suite D, Cloquet, MN. 55720. Donors are asked to put "Thanksgiving Dinner" in the memo line of their checks.