There may not be a sit-down Community Thanksgiving Dinner this year, but about a hundred volunteers are still needed for the drive-thru pick up and delivery event in Jamestown, said co-chairs Sue Corwin and Amy Neustel.

The dinner is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, which is Thursday, Nov. 25. People will drive up to pick up meals at Concordia Lutheran Church instead of dining in the church. Delivery will also be offered as in previous years.

“In a typical year, it’s about 640, 650 but we’re planning for 700 (meals),” Neustel said.

This will be the 30th annual dinner which is free to anyone and consists of a traditional Thanksgiving meal: turkey, homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn, cranberries and pumpkin bars.

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Neustel and Corwin have been chairing the dinner since the passing of dinner founder Fritz Buegel. But the standard plans long used by the co-chairs needed a few tweaks with the dinner being changed to a drive-thru event due to COVID, Neustel said.

“We talked with the (Jamestown) Police Department to verify if there’s any issues they wanted us to address with this idea and they made the suggestion” on the traffic flow, she said.

The church is located at 502 First Ave. North. Those picking up dinners are asked to drive north on First Avenue, continue past the church, turn east (right) at the end of the block, then turn south into the alley to pick up the meal. No reservations are necessary to pick up a meal, Neustel said. People can just come beginning at 11 a.m.

This map shows the planned route for motorists who are picking up drive-through meals for the Community Thanksgiving Dinner. Motorists should enter from First Avenue North, turn right onto 6th Street Northeast, then turn into the alley. 
Google Earth map
This map shows the planned route for motorists who are picking up drive-through meals for the Community Thanksgiving Dinner. Motorists should enter from First Avenue North, turn right onto 6th Street Northeast, then turn into the alley. Google Earth map

“We’re hoping we have enough volunteers so it should go fairly quick,” Neustel said.

Volunteers will be directing traffic and signs will be posted guiding motorists.

“And that’s something new for volunteers that we need this year is somebody that’s ... willing to direct traffic and be outside,” Corwin said. Having a few more volunteers willing to work outside would be helpful so they do not all have to be outside the entire time if it’s cold, she said.

Volunteers working inside the church will wear gloves and a face mask or shield which will be provided, Neustel said.

“Due to COVID still being active, we do understand that people have concerns about that, so we’re not sure how that will affect our volunteer (numbers) status because of the fact that people ... we can’t guarantee that we can keep them away from that aspect of things when we’re working in closer quarters,” Neustel said.

The protocol for delivering meals will also change slightly to avoid contact with others.

“... we won’t be going into their homes, we would take them to their door, ring the doorbell, step away, be sure that somebody picks them up,” Neustel said. “So that’s how we’re trying to prevent things as best as we can.”

Volunteers will answer the phone at Concordia Lutheran Church from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 22-24, for delivery orders and volunteers. Call the church at 252-2819. People wanting meals delivered may also call on Thursday morning, the day of the dinner.

“Some people want specific times for meals to be delivered,” Neustel said. “We can’t guarantee that because we don’t know what our volunteers are going to be, but we try to get it there as quickly as we can.”

People who would like to volunteer are encouraged to call and provide their name along with their phone number and what tasks they would like to help with. They’ll be given a time to come to help. Tasks include directing traffic, delivering meals, meal preparation and cleanup. People may also show up that day to volunteer and will be assigned tasks.

Dinner preparations

Preparing the meal that will feed up to 700 people begins on Wednesday. The University of Jamestown is part of that preparation, where 25 turkeys will be cooked - the smallest of which is 22 pounds.

“They’re letting us use their kitchen which we greatly appreciate,” Corwin said. “We really do appreciate that, that helps us out a lot.”

Volunteers will work at UJ’s dining area cooking the turkeys, making homemade stuffing to cook on Thursday morning and baking pumpkin bars, which are substituting this year for pumpkin pie. The stuffing, potatoes, gravy and corn will all be prepared on Thursday morning. While buns are usually also part of the meal, they didn’t fit in the dinner containers, so they won’t be included this year, Corwin said.

The work on Wednesday begins early for the organizers - around 7:30 a.m. - and continues until the food preparation is completed by about 6 p.m.

“Then we go down to the church and make sure everything’s set up there for the morning,” Corwin said.

Donors are crucial to the meal including Sysco, which donates the corn and cranberries, Cash Wise the turkeys and Pan-O-Gold the 60 loaves of bread for the stuffing.

“We try to do as much as we can locally,” Neustel said. “We do have very good business support on cash donations for things we have to buy.”

That support for the event is appreciated.

“We’d never be able to do it without the support of the community,” Corwin said. “And - it’s a community Thanksgiving. It’s the community that is putting it on. It’s just hosted at Concordia because they had said they would be willing to let us do that.”

Because of the change to a drive-thru event, Corwin and Nesutel said they’re a little nervous on how it will turn out.

“We plan for 700 and we pray we don’t have to turn anybody away,” Neustel said. “... we’ll do our best and hopefully the community will understand if we do run out of food.”


If you go

What: Community Thanksgiving Dinner

When: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 25

Where: meals will be picked up at Concordia Lutheran Church, 502 First Ave. N, or delivered; no in-church dining

Cost: free

For delivery orders/to volunteer: call 252-2819