ESCANABA - A tradition of community togetherness continues this year. The 33rd Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner will be held Thanksgiving Day at the Escanaba High School. The event draws hundreds of guests and gives families and individuals who might otherwise spend the holiday alone a place to celebrate with others.
"People are able to be there, and not be alone, and be out there talking to people," said Maggie Tall, a volunteer who has helped orchestrate the Community Thanksgiving Dinner since its inception.
The free dinner will be served Thanksgiving Day starting at noon in the Escanaba Area Senior High School cafeteria. In addition to roast turkey, guests will be served cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables, rolls, and a variety of desserts.
"It's a family sit down meal not a buffet," said Tall, adding that many guest are surprised to discover that food is served by volunteers and not served buffet style.
"It's like at home, you can come late and there'll still be something to eat but you might not get everything you want and there might not be as much of it," she added.
The Community Thanksgiving Dinner draws between 200 and 250 guests each year. In addition to those guests, between 200 and 400 meals are delivered and last year more than 120 dinners were picked up.
"If they have an elderly parent they can call and say I need this many meals," said Tall.
People interested in having a dinner delivered, picked up, or who need a ride to the dinner can call Community Action at 786-7080. Meals can be picked up at the the High School between 11:15 and 11:45 a.m. or 12:30 and 1 p.m. Volunteers interested in delivering dinners are also encouraged to call Community Action.
As in past years area Girl Scout troops, which have been busy making placemats for the dinner, will be leading the effort to serve the guests. Others who are interested in interested in helping prepare, serve, or clean up after the dinner are asked to call ProServ at 786-1699.
"The community does support it. Many businesses donate a little monetarily so nobody is burdened too much and nobody has to be alone," said Tall.
It was the idea of people being alone during the holidays that sparked the creation of the Community Thanksgiving Dinner 34 years ago.
"This started with the minister at the First Presbyterian Church and he was going to be alone for Thanksgiving, so he said, 'This isn't a holiday people should be alone for,'" explained Tall.
Back at the first dinner served at the First Presbyterian Church in Escanaba in 1980, portion sizes were small. A mere three turkeys were served to 35 guests and 15 volunteers helped cook and serve the dinner.
"I'm not in charge, God is. This wouldn't have lasted this long if I was in charge," said Tall.