Oven-roasted turkey, garlic red-skinned potatoes, green bean casserole and all the traditional Thanksgiving trimmings will bring people together at Thursday's annual community dinner hosted at the American Legion in Brainerd.
The annual community dinner, which has been held for more than a decade, will begin at 11 a.m. and run through 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Several area clubs, including the Elks, the VFW, the Eagles and the Legion, sponsor the dinner and are involved in cooking the meal, delivering it and other aspects of putting the day together. The dinner also is made possible by donations from businesses, the community and the volunteers who help.
Janelle Fitch, general club manager of the American Legion in Brainerd, said this year there are about 65 volunteers who will feed about 550 people. Of the 550 people, 270 are meals delivered to people who are locked in or who would rather stay home, Fitch said.
The Legion has a 5-gallon bucket for donations for the dinner. Fitch said anyone can donate and they raise about $2,000 a year which goes for the cost of the meal.
Last year the clubs saw an increase in the number of people receiving meals for the community dinner. Fitch said the reason was a new partnership with Bridges of Hope, which aimed to pull in more adults who don't have children.
Fitch said the community dinner is open to everyone.
"Anyone who would like to have a warm meal at their home instead of going out or would like to come here for a meal, this is the place for people to come," Fitch said.
"We love hosting the dinner, it is rewarding and we get to meet a lot of new people."
Fitch said new this year is live music.
Fitch said the volunteer roster is already full, as many families make it a tradition to sign up every year.
Dana and Tim Tschida of Baxter and their two children are one of several families who help out every year for the community dinner. Dana Tschida said they've volunteered for about eight years and it is a way for them to help the community and to give back. Tschida said they started volunteering when their children were young to show them first-hand what it is like when you volunteer your time to a good cause. After the first year of volunteering, the Baxter parents gave their children the choice to either help with the community dinner or to go to their own family Thanksgiving. They chose to help with the community dinner.
Their children, Zach, 20, and Megan, 17, continue to volunteer and Zach is on the planning committee this year for the dinner.
The Tschida family for the past three years has volunteered with the deliveries. They help bag the meals, get the drivers assigned and anything else that needs to be done.
"It makes us all feel pretty awesome to help out," Tschida said. "It's a fantastic feeling to help and we have a great community."
Other Community Thanksgiving meals:
• Pine Haven Youth and Family Services staff and residents will host a Thanksgiving Dinner at 12:30 p.m. Thursday for individuals and families at the Oak Street Chapel in Brainerd. Dinner is supplied, in part, by donations from employees at the U.S. Bank in Brainerd.
• Grace United Methodist Church in Pequot Lakes will host its annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner from noon to 2:30 p.m. Dinner includes all the trimmings and is free and open to the public.
• The annual Smith Family Thanksgiving featuring turkey and fixings will be from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday at the Pine River American Legion. Delivery is available. Call 218-947-3500 or 218-587-2120. This has been an annual tradition since 1993, started by the Floyd and Vi Smith family.