IVANHOE - It might have been a few days early, but the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday was definitely present in the crowded VFW hall in Ivanhoe.
People from around northern Lincoln County lined up for a hot, homecooked turkey dinner and a chat with friends and family. And at the same time, everyone was giving back, whether it was with their time, with boxes of canned goods for the local food shelf or with a donation for the Salvation Army kettle by the door.
"You can tell somebody put a lot of work into it, and the food's good," said area resident Paul Erschens of the event.
Photo by Deb Gau
A lineup of volunteers, including Lorry Conrad, Michelle Bloch, Dawn Popowski, Brandon Gifford, Sarah Wersal, Andrea Rost and Cody Gifford, served up a hot turkey dinner with all the trimmings at the Ivanhoe community Thanksgiving meal Saturday.
Ivanhoe's community Thanksgiving dinner, which was held this weekend, is a community meal in more than one sense. Area residents cook the food. Guests are asked to contribute to the food shelf and the Salvation Army. Members of the Ivanhoe Greenleaf 4-H Club sort the donations, serve the meal and bus tables, as well as hold a bake sale for their club. Everyone's helping out in some way.
Muriel Koopman, one of the organizers of the dinner, said it's been a collaboration from the very beginning, about 10 years ago. Part of it is for practical reasons.
"Usually we serve about 300 to 380 people," Koopman said, so the cooking alone takes a lot of volunteers.
"Ten of us each took a 20-pound turkey and cooked it, and did the stuffing," said Beth Daniels, one of the volunteers at the dinner. But being part of the event is also a way to do something for others, volunteers said.
Daniels said she enjoyed working together with all the volunteers, both adults and kids.
"It's so much fun to watch the little ones," who often get the job of clearing plates and washing tables, she said. "They're so timid when they come up to you. They're like, 'Can I take this?'"
Quite a few of the 4-H members said they had worked at the community dinner for several years in a row, working their way up from clearing plates to carrying heavy canned goods and running the bake sale table.
"Everyone makes a pan of dessert," or other goodies to bring to the bake sale, said 4-H member Emily Swanson.
Despite the work involved, both volunteers and guests at the dinner said it's a good time and a good meal. Lois Erschens said she and her husband Paul Erschens make sure to come and make their annual kettle donation.
Area residents Dennis and Carol Halling said they also attend the community Thanksgiving every year.
"For Dennis and I, it's like a tradition," Carol Halling said. This year, the Hallings were sharing their holiday meal with their grandchildren and family. "It goes very well. They do a good job," she said of the volunteers' work each year.
"The food's good, too," added Kaylee Smith.