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Turkey and volunteers

Boxes of frozen turkeys arrive Friday at the University of Jamestown campus, where they will be prepared and cooked for the annual community Thanksgiving Day meal at Concordia Lutheran Church. John M. Steiner / The Sun

If you go

What: Jamestown Community Thanksgiving Dinner

When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thanksgiving Day

Where: Concordia Lutheran Church, 502 1st Ave. N., Jamestown

Admission: Free and open to the public

Details: Meal delivery, takeout and rides to the meal are also available. Call Concordia Lutheran Church, 252-2819.

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All of the preparation for the Jamestown Community Thanksgiving Dinner is done with one goal, according to organizer Amy Neustel.

"Sometimes people don't understand we're here to provide a meal," she said. "This is a 27-year tradition and there are still people that don't know about it."

The meal is held at Concordia Lutheran Church at 502 1st Ave. N, The meal is served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and is free of charge and available to anyone. Meals are available at the church or as takeout or can be delivered to those not able to travel to the church.

Food preparation gets started Wednesday, according to Sue Corwin, another of the event organizers. Volunteer cooks plan on preparing 24 turkeys in the food service ovens at the University of Jamestown. Those birds become the centerpiece of a meal that includes about 20 gallons of corn and "a lot of potatoes, cranberries and stuffing."

"The last two years have been over 600 people with 685 (attending) last year," Neustel said. "You never know, this might be the year we break 700. It would be good to know we can get some fresh people in."

Neustel said as the event continues to grow, organization and planning become more important each year, although that doesn't mean the process of preparing that much food gets easier.

"Sometimes what works good one year will not work the next year," she said. "You have to make a lot of adjustments as you go."

Along with a strong group of volunteers and a plan, the Community Thanksgiving Dinner relies on volunteers. Some of those volunteers have helped at the event for more than two decades.

"I enjoy seeing the people enjoy the meal," Corwin said, commenting on her 25 years with the event. "This has become my Thanksgiving tradition."

Neustel said she has helped with the Community Thanksgiving Dinner for about 20 years.

"I've never said no," she said. "I hope in the future other people will keep it going after we're gone."

Volunteer efforts don't just begin Thanksgiving Day morning. Along with the volunteer cooks working early this week preparing the food, other volunteers are handling the telephones making arrangements for people who will need a ride to the church for the meal.

Students from the University of Jamestown and Jamestown High School will work to set up tables and chairs, while other groups of volunteers are tasked with the cleanup after the meal is over.

"We really need the volunteers to accomplish this," Corwin said. "We appreciate what they do."

The Community Thanksgiving Dinner also relies on the support of the business community.

"Some of the businesses in town give cash donations and others donate food products," Corwin said. "We use the cash donations to cover the costs of any items that are not donated."

When all the planning comes together, it results in a free meal and a chance for people to get together and celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.

"There are no excuses for people not to come," Neustel said. "We are handicapped accessible, we offer rides and we have a great hot meal."

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