Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner set for Thurs. at St. Rose Family Center

M.P. Regan
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Cool customers

Volunteer cooks participate in the frozen turkey distribution last Friday in frozen weather in Dillon in preparation for this Thursday’s Community Thanksgiving. Gabrielle Regan photo

It’s 0 degrees.

On 11/18. Just after 12 p.m. But 44 ranks as the key number of the hour in the parking lot of the local Lutheran Church where Judy Tash hands out that many frozen turkeys to volunteer cooks.

“It’s been the right number,” said Tash of the annual 44-turkey distribution process critical to the Community Thanksgiving event in Dillon set for tomorrow, Thursday, Nov. 24.

“We’ve been 44 for as long as I remember,” recalls Tash, who for the past decade has served as one of the key players in the complex planning and preparation process organizers somehow make look easy for the perpetually successful Community Thanksgiving in Dillon.

After getting distributed by Tash, the 44 turkeys accompany volunteers to dozens of area homes to get cooked.

“We ask each church in town to help out with five or six people to cook turkeys. And there are some people who do it year after year,” said Tash of folks who donate their time and kitchens to prepare the Thanksgiving meal’s main course.

“I need four,” Sharon Ricks tells Tash, getting three turkeys she'll give to others to prepare and one to cook herself—though she won’t get a taste of it.

“Some day, we may come over for the meal. But we have too many coming to visit us that day again this year,” adds Ricks, of a conundrum also faced by Tash and the Community Thanksgiving’s lead organizer, Sharon Anderson.

“I usually take something home to have afterwards. I don’t have time to eat during it,” says Anderson.

“I have my family from out of town. So, I go over the night before or in the morning and help do what has to be done beforehand,” says Tash in between handing out turkeys last week.

Once cooked, the turkeys will be taken on Thanksgiving morning to the St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church Family Center at the corner of Sebree and Atlantic, where they will get carved and distributed again, this time, slice by cooked slice, onto dinner plates and into delivery boxes as part of a free, multi-course meal served over the course of three-and-a-half hours to an astounding number of folks.

“When I tell most people how many meals we make, they look at me like it doesn’t seem possible,” said Anderson of a total last year that included around 500 meals served on site to diners coming to the St. Rose Family Center and about 240 more as deliveries to people at home around town or just outside of Dillon.

“I think we’ll have more people who want to come in this year to eat, but that’s just a guess,” added Anderson of those looking to enjoy a free meal that can include turkey, ham, dressing, mashed potatoes, corn, rolls and more.

Much more, especially when it comes to pies, which will be offered to attendees in numerous varieties baked by folks who drop them off at the event for others to enjoy.

“Each church on the committee is asked to bring four pies,” revealed Anderson of how part of the St. Rose of Lima Family Center gets transformed into a mansion of pies on Thanksgiving.

“And we never turn a pie away,” added Anderson of the contributions of renegade good Samaritans to the event’s pie panoply.

Other parts of the menu get donated to the event from other parts of the community.

“The LDS Church gives 250 pounds of mashed potatoes. Other churches donate corn, beans, cranberries,” said Anderson, who also benefits from time given by people in the weeks and days leading up to the event, as well as during it and in the hours afterwards for cleanup.

“We get community members willing to put in an hour or two that day,” says Anderson of the Thanksgiving Day contribution in the form of free labor offered by so many to help pull off the event she acts as the sort of lead organizer for.

“I guess you could call me that. But everybody has their jobs. Judy Tash takes care of the 44 turkeys—getting those ordered, picked up and out to cook. Claris Yuhas takes care of the carvers and the kitchen to make sure everything its getting done. Christine Hildreth has been involved in a lot of ways for a lot of years.”

“I’ve been helping out since it started,” said Hildreth of an annual Thanksgiving event that got going in 1997.

“It’s such a fun and such a good event, it’s kind of addicting.”

In addition to a good meal, the Community Thanksgiving provides good, free company for people on a holiday that can be a lonely day for those without family in town—or those who just want to engage more people on a joyous occasion.

“Not everyone gets the opportunity for that all the time, and holidays can be the loneliest time for some. Here, we’ll have a lot of people sitting around tables and talking,” said Anderson of the typically buzzing, all-ages social scene at the Community Thanksgiving.

“Maybe the biggest part of this isn’t the meal, but the fellowship.”

The free Community Thanksgiving will happen 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 24, in the St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church Family Center, at Sebree and Atlantic streets in Dillon. Those unable to attend in person can arrange to get a meal delivered by calling 406-596-0759.