Thanksgiving Day, 33 turkeys will get a roasting outside the American Legion Post 398 in Mound.
The partnership that began four years ago between the Legion and the Westonka Food Shelf to host a community-wide turkey dinner has only grown with time, and area churches and businesses have contributed food, money and volunteers to the meal.
“Everybody in the community just rallies together to make sure everybody has a great Thanksgiving,” said Heidi Schmidt, assistant director for the Westonka Food Shelf (WFS).
“This has become a community event, not just in the people who come up here to eat, but also the people who come up here to help,” said Colby Sherman, commander of the Mound Sons of the Legion.
Numbers provided by the food shelf show that each year has brought in more people. In 2016, an estimated 125 people were served, either in person or through having food delivered to them. The next year, that number grew to 250, and 2018 showed nearly 350 people served.
More people are also volunteering, and because of that shifts have gotten shorter to accommodate more volunteers, said Michelle Bottenfield, director for WFS. Schmidt said that when sign-ups opened Nov. 1, all spots were filed within two weeks.
But the first Thanksgiving wasn’t a certainty, just a trial and error that proved fruitful.
“We weren’t sure if people were going to embrace it or [if they’d be] afraid to come up for what it may mean. You know, a stigma to it,” said Sherman. “We just thought there’s a need for this.”
Sherman and then WFS director Shelly Sir planned the 2016 Thanksgiving meal after Sir saw one the food shelf’s patrons alone and approached Father Tony O’Neill of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church about hosting something for the community, said Schmidt.
Looking back, Sherman, laughing, described the first year as “chaotic.”
“We weren’t sure what we were getting ourselves into, and it seemed like everybody showed up right away – as soon as we opened the doors, there were people here, ready.”
“You see the first people come in, they sit down, they’re enjoying their meals, whether it’s a family or just a gentleman by himself who didn’t have anyone else – you realize that’s why we started this” said Sherman.
The meal doesn’t end with the holiday: any leftover food gets packaged for the food shelf and distributed to families that Friday and Saturday.
Open to everyone in the community, the Thanksgiving meal is Thursday, Nov. 28 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at American Legion Post 398, 2333 Wilshire Blvd., Mound. No reservations required.