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Thanksgiving dinner volunteers help because it's 'needed' for the community

The 31st Annual Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner will be held Thursday, Nov. 24, at Concordia Lutheran Church and will be served through its drive-thru system or by deliveries.

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Any Neustel, left, and Sue Corwin inspect the roasters during preparations in 2018 for the Community Thanksgiving Dinner at Concordia Lutheran Church.
Keith Norman / The Jamestown Sun file photo
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JAMESTOWN – Volunteers continue to help make the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner possible because it is a good event for the community, according to Amy Neustel, co-chair of the event’s planning committee.

After Fritz Buegel, founder of the event, passed away, Neustel said she and Sue Corwin, co-chair of the planning committee, told his family they would keep the event going.

“We need it for our community,” she said. “We didn’t want to give it up. We felt it was something our community needed.”

For Neustel’s husband, Dale, who is also known as “Skip,” the annual event has become a part of his Thanksgiving tradition. He said he was used to going to a relative’s place or hosting other relatives at his place but the event has been an annual tradition since he got married.

“I know it’s very important to my wife, Amy, and I wanted to help support her too,” he said.

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He said he helps out wherever he is needed.

“We help a lot of people who are needing this meal,” he said. “It just gives a lot of satisfaction to see the people appreciate the meals.”

Amy Neustel said her husband took a few years off to take care of their daughter. But once their daughter got old enough, she helped at the event as well, doing tasks such as making decorations that were handed out to attendees, playing music, helping with to-go meals, picking up dirty dishes and setting the tables again.

She said her husband helps with any tasks that are needed. He helps get to-go meals ready, delivers meals and in the past he picked people up when the event was held in-house. Now one of his main roles is making mashed potatoes.

“He’s moved up to graduating to making the potatoes,” she said.

Corwin said the annual event is great for the community.

“We are able to provide a meal for people that probably wouldn’t ordinarily have one,” she said. “The fellowship is just nice to do. I just enjoy doing it and helping out.”

She said volunteers are expecting to serve at least 750 meals during the 31st Annual Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday, Nov. 24, at Concordia Lutheran Church. The meals will be served through its drive-thru system or by deliveries.

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The Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, cranberries and dessert is free, and anybody can get one. Orders through the drive-thru pickup process and deliveries will happen from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday or until there is no food left.

Once again this year, meals will not be served in house. In 2021, meals were served via drive-thru and deliveries only because of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, the event was canceled due to the pandemic.

In past years, about a 100 volunteers helped with the event. Neustel said that number was cut in half last year and the shortage of volunteers has prevented the event from returning in-house at Concordia Lutheran Church.

The annual event is supported by the community with donations to make it possible.

“We are just very fortunate with our community to support this and understand that there is a need in Jamestown for it,” Neustel said.

She said Cash Wise donates a portion of the turkeys for the event. Other businesses and community members make cash donations to help purchase other items needed for the meal.

She said pumpkin bars will be made by a business at a discounted price. “That’s very nice of them too to help us with so we don’t have to bake those off and package them all and all that stuff,” she said. “We are getting a blessing there.”

Most of the meal is cooked from scratch. She said 26 turkeys that all weigh over 22 pounds and at least eight large cans of corn will be cooked this year.

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She said the gallons of gravy are made with the drippings from the turkey. Last year, there wasn’t enough stuffing or cranberries, so organizers are planning to have more of each on hand.

Neustel said the only item that isn’t made from scratch is the mashed potatoes.

“It’s just too hard. It’s more of an instant thing,” she said.
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If you go

What: Community Thanksgiving Dinner

When: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 24

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

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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