Nearly 200 pounds of mouth-watering turkey and homemade authentic potatoes will be out of the oven and be ready to be served during the Thanksgiving Community Dinner Thursday at the Brainerd American Legion.
The community dinner — sponsored by the American Legion No. 255, Fraternal Order of Eagles No. 287, Elks Lodge No. 615 and VFW Post No. 1647 — will be served from noon-1:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Volunteers will deliver meals to shut-ins, people who are unable to get out of the house, from 11 a.m. to noon.
Janelle Fitch, general manager of the American Legion, said the community dinner is open to everyone. Organizers are expecting about 450 people this year.
“The community dinner is an opportunity for families to pay it forward and give back to others,” Fitch said. “The dinner also gives the shut-ins a chance to feel special, knowing that someone else is cooking a traditional meal for them and thinking of them.
“The dinner all around is a good example of good morale.”
Fitch said all the service and veterans’ organizations work well together to put the Thanksgiving dinner on the tables for the community. The Legion hosts the dinner because it has the most space.
The community dinner, held since 1979, used to be at the Moose Lodge in Brainerd. When the Moose Lodge closed in September of 2010, the dinner moved to the Legion.
The dinner will include the turkey and the potatoes, as well as have 30 bags of coleslaw, 60 pounds of French-style green beans with mushrooms, 30 pounds of cranberries, pumpkin and apple pies, bread and coffee and juice.
Fitch said every year the organizations are blessed with many people who volunteer their time to help with the community dinner.
Paulette Thoennes of Brainerd, who has organized the volunteers for the dinner for the past five years, got involved with the dinner because she wanted to be a part of something special to help the community.
“I saw a need and got involved,” said Thoennes. “I take care of all the volunteers that day. My husband and a close family friend (Dana Tschida) and their family help out, too. They help with delivery. Last year we delivered 142 meals.”
Thoennes said, “The dinner is open to everyone, not just for those in need. If you are alone this year, come out and be with others. This is a community dinner. We have a wide variety of families who help out. Last year we had so many volunteers that I was able to just sit and visit with others.”
People do not have to make reservations to attend the community meal, they just have to show up, said Thoennes.