The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 26, 2008

Feasting community style

There's no shortage of Thanksgiving dinners

MANKATO — No Diner Left Behind.

That slogan is as apt as any for the bounty of free Thanksgiving dinners offered in the Mankato community this year.

At least five entities are providing turkey and all the trimmings, and one program goes so far as to deliver the meals to people’s homes.

The annual “Turkey Palooza” effort by Minnesota State University’s Campus Kitchen delivered more than 300 ready-to-heat dinners on Wednesday — courtesy of community donors’ largesse.

“We ask people to sponsor a family,” said Sammie Eckerson, director of the ongoing fundraising-supported Campus Kitchen program that reclaims food that dormitory kitchens otherwise would discard.

Meantime, the Mankato Elks will again sponsor the community’s longest-tenured free Thanksgiving meal with serving 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at the Salvation Army.

“There will be five ex-chefs working in the kitchen,” said Elks spokesman Roger Coomes of the affair expected to feed more than 100 people.

And typical of such holiday meal events, there’s never any shortage of people wanting to volunteer assistance.

“We had many more callers than we could use. We started turning away people two weeks ago,” Coomes said.

Eckerson was likewise inundated by students wanting to help package and deliver meals.

“But I don’t cut anybody off,” she said. “I try to make sure every volunteer has an opportunity to do something. I want to make sure everyone has that experience.”

First Presbyterian Church began its Thanksgiving meal program four years ago to fill the void created when the Elks meal program took a one-year hiatus.

Church secretary Kimberly Moore said the event was so well-received that it has become a yearly staple, with meals cooked and served by eager volunteers. “A lovely eclectic blend of folks,” she said.

The church, in conjunction with St. John’s Episcopal, expects to serve 150 meals from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

On Wednesday, Elevate Church in Mankato hosted a Thanksgiving fellowship dinner for a select group of guests — the families of 17 people enrolled in Blue Earth County’s drug treatment program.

And last but far from least is the ECHO Food Shelf, which annually packs Thanksgiving meal grocery boxes for distribution to those who sign up.

This year, 815 households requested the dinners.

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