Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner turns 30

By Tina Snell, Staff Writer

The annual Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner will be celebrating 30 years this week. It will be held at the Little Falls Community High School (LFCHS) from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. and everyone is welcome to the free event.

The first event was held in 1982, and was the brainchild of the late Mary Krantz and her husband Jeff Odendahl. During the first four years, the celebration moved around to several churches in Little Falls. In 1987, it moved to the LFCHS and has remained there every since.

“The school district couldn’t be more accommodating,” said Nate Bjorge, a member of the planning committee. “It allows us to use the facilities and cook our meal in the high school kitchen. It has worked out well.”

The event is for the community, not just for those who are in need. “It brings the community together,” said Bjorge. “Each year I hear stories from those who cannot be with family for whatever reason and they appreciate being able to come to the Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner. The event fills a void.”

Bjorge said each year he sees both old and new faces. A death in the family, a winter storm or something else may prevent people from traveling to spend time with friends and family. The Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner is there to support everyone.

Tina Wheeler, another member of the planning committee, donates her time to cooking just about everything. She begins Tuesday night in the high school kitchen, cooking the turkeys. On Wednesday night, she and other volunteers make the salads, slice the turkeys and get things ready for the big day. Thursday morning, everyone helps set up the buffet line and work on the last minute preparations.

“I love doing this,” she said. “I love to cook, I love to see people eat, see them enjoy themselves. It seems as if food and people make a great combination.”

This is Wheeler’s third year cooking for the Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner. She said she has enough volunteers for the kitchen and expects, as has happened in previous years, people will stay after the meal to help clean up.

The tables will be decorated with place mats created by local school children. Many youth groups gather at the high school Wednesday night to help set the tables.

The meal will be a traditional fare: turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, salads and desserts.

“The pies and other desserts are donated by the community. Many people just make one or two extra desserts and drop them off at the school Thanksgiving morning,” said Bjorge. “Faith Lutheran Church has a pie social Thanksgiving Eve and we donate what is not eaten to the community meal.

If interested in volunteering, contact Tim Sumner at (320) 630-6260. People are needed to serve, to greet the guests, help with seating and drive people to and from the high school.

Donations are being accepted to help offset the cost of the meal. Make checks out to the Little Falls Area Ministerial Association and send them to Faith Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 466, Little Falls, MN, 56345. Or, donations may be dropped off Thanksgiving Day at the LFCHS.