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American Legion distributes more than 1,100 Thanksgiving meals

About 1,145 meals went out this year — 745 by delivery and 400 picked up.

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Baxter Police Sgt. Matt Maier delivers Thanksgiving meals to Christine Grossman, left, and Sara Hauck at White Oak Estates in Baxter Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. The Brainerd American Legion prepared about 1,145 meals for delivery and pick up this year. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Outside, temperatures hit single digits with the wind chill factor Thanksgiving morning, but inside the Brainerd American Legion, steam rose from the kitchen as volunteers packed the building.

At least 100 community members dished up food, packed bags and boxes, loaded vehicles and hit the streets to make sure hot, homemade turkey dinners were available for those who needed it.

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Lori Guin, left, Kristen Pratt, Brody Kovatovich, Jason Kovatovich and Steve Pratt serve up Thanksgiving food Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, at the American Legion. About 745 meals were delivered around the community this year. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Legion Club Manager Janelle Fitch was blown away by the community’s willingness to help.

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“It’s unexpected, but I’m just so very thankful,” she said by phone Thursday afternoon. “... I’ve just had so many people call just this past week and say, ‘Is there any way I can actually volunteer? We’re new to the community, we want something to do.’”

The meal on Thursday, Nov. 25, was the second year in a row community members didn’t congregate at the Legion and sit down with their meal. Because of COVID-19 risks, those who ordered meals lined up in their vehicles downtown and accepted their bagged meals through the car window before driving away to enjoy it at home.

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Crow Wing County Sgt. Craig Katzenberger and son Cooper help bring Thanksgiving meals to drivers to deliver throughout the community Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, at the Brainerd American Legion. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

But first, local law enforcement officers and firefighters drove around the lakes area delivering food to various residences.

It’s become a Thanksgiving tradition for firefighter Steve Isle, who still loves hopping in his firetruck and delivering the meals with his kids. His group’s first stop of the day was Mississippi Terrace Apartments, where residents eagerly awaited their turkey.

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“I’m single. I have no family up here or anything, so it’s really nice to have this meal come in,” resident Walter Beste said. “... There’s a lot of people here that are single. They’ve got to cook for themselves, so they would enjoy a nice warm meal.”

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Kipton Isle carries of load of Thanksgiving meals into Mississippi Terrace Apartments in Brainerd Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Beste was looking forward to some pumpkin pie himself and making a sandwich with any cold turkey leftover from the holiday meal.

Baxter Police Sgt. Matt Maier headed out to White Oak Estates, where he first opened a tightly sealed jug of orange juice for a resident before dropping off the food.

“I’m very thankful for (the meal) because I don’t get to spend a lot of time with my family, so it means a lot,” resident Sara Hauck said as Maier loaded the boxes of food on a cart to take inside.

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Ellie Berg, left, and Alivia Berg, with the assistance of Ollie the puppy, deliver Thanksgiving meals to residents Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, at Mississippi Terrace Apartments in Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

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“I have a sister in town, but she’s recently had COVID, so we haven’t been able to connect much, so this is fabulous,” neighbor Christine Grossman said.

About 1,145 meals went out this year — 745 by delivery and 400 picked up. That number is down from the roughly 1,400 that went out last year but up from the 810 people who were served at the last in-person Thanksgiving meal in 2019.

If there were any issues this year, it was having almost too many volunteers, Fitch said, or, as they say, quite literally too many cooks in the kitchen.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .

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A look through the Brainerd Dispatch archives with Terry McCollough combing the microfilm for tidbits of history through the decades going back to 1922.
A look through the Brainerd Dispatch archives with Terry McCollough combing the microfilm for tidbits of history through the decades going back to 1922.