Dinner is served: Volunteers make annual Thanksgiving meal happen

Posted: Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ten turkeys and 30 pounds of potatoes is more than just a mass of holiday food to the Salvation Army in Kenai -- it's the makings of a special, and free, Thanksgiving dinner for Kenai Peninsula residents today.

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Photos By M. Scott Moon
Photos By M. Scott Moon
Carson Ratky and Jiabao Leaf sweep the lobby at The Salvation Army on Wednesday. They and 18 other students from Kerri Nelson's class at Cook Inlet Academy spent part of their morning helping The Salvation Army prepare for today's community dinner.

"It's so that no one is alone on Thanksgiving," said Jeannie Fanning, a Salvation Army envoy. "Thanksgiving is kind of a family day, a day when people get together, and we didn't want anybody eating by themselves."

The Salvation Army's free feast at its community center in Kenai has been a community tradition on the Peninsula for more than a decade, Jeannie Fanning said. And preparing the meal has become customary for the many volunteers who make it happen.

"It's quite a task. There's no way we could do it without volunteers," she said.

Aside from turkeys and potatoes, volunteers help prepare all the usual Thanksgiving fixings like stuffing, sweet potatoes, corn, rolls and gravy.

Credit Union 1 in Soldotna donates all of the pies and whipped cream for the meal and Carrie Nelson's class from Cook Inlet Academy also helped in preparing for the feast.

"They'll peel potatoes and carrots and all that kind of stuff and decorate the room," she said. "They all bring their own little peelers. It's kind of cute."

Jeannie Fanning finished up shopping for the dinner on Monday and picked up all the pies and rolls on Wednesday. She said she tries to have enough food to feed 200 people.

Craig Fanning, Jeannie's husband and also an envoy with Salvation Army, said they've had years where only 25 to 30 people come to Thanksgiving, as well as years where more than 100 people come.

He said they try to have enough to send everyone home with a plate of leftovers, too.

"Leftovers for later is part of the fun of Thanksgiving," Craig Fanning said.

And the dinner is not only for the less fortunate.

"It's not just for poor people, it's a community dinner," he said. "We have a lot of families that come that are empty nesters."

"It's geared toward anybody that's wanting to come and have dinner," Jeannie Fanning said.

In the end, all of the support and volunteers for the holiday dinner really gives Jeannie Fanning something to be thankful for.

"We have a very generous community and I am proud to live in this community," she said.

The Salvation Army's Thanksgiving meal will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today at its community center at 201 North Forest Drive, in Kenai.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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