By Alan Sorensen
The buying's done and the cooking's begun and everyone's invited for Havre's largest free annual community dinner tomorrow afternoon.
Those who can't make the sit-down meal from noon to 3 p.m. in the St. Jude Social Hall are invited to arrange for home delivery, but they'd better hurry. The deadline for putting in a home order by calling the North Central Senior Citizens Center at 265-5464 is 5 p.m. today.
Linda Rennick, who stepped forward a short 2 weeks ago to take the reins of the dinner from long-time ramrod Kelly Stewart, said she has everything she hopes to need to feed everyone who calls in or shows up.
"I talked with Brian Morse last night and he said they had 204 take-out dinners ordered at the close of day yesterday," Rennick said. "He guessed that we'd end up with between 250 and 300."
Morse has organized the home delivery volunteers for nearly all of the 17 years the dinner has been held since an anonymous donor stepped forward to get it going in the early '80s. This year a new benefactor offered to step in when Stewart dropped out for family health reasons and her benefactor was reluctant to rely on anyone other Stewart.
Rennick and the new donor, who also chooses to remain anonymous, said they are extremely grateful to Stewart and the man who funded 100 percent of the first 17 community meals
So what's on this year's menu?
Rennick said she used the benefactor's money to purchase: 26 turkeys, 200 pounds of potatoes, 50 pounds of onions, case of celery, case of green onions, case of radishes, 2 gallons of sweet pickles, 12 gallons of black olives, 2 gallons of green olives, 20 pounds of carrots, 42 pounds of sweet potatoes, 30 pounds of giblets for stuffing, 50 pounds of bread crumbs for stuff, 1,000 dinner rolls, 113 pumpkin pies, 30 pounds of butter for cooking and 1,200 pats of butter for the tables, 300 cartons milk, 100 pounds of corn, 25 pounds of flour, 30 cans whipped cream, 42 pounds of cranberry sauce, and a few odds and ends.
The dinner historically takes more than 100 volunteers to perform dozens of chores beginning the day before Thanksgiving to be successful. They come from the high school, from churches, from various clubs and organizations and from just around town. And for the most part, they have just as a good a time if not a better time than the diners.
The first of the volunteers were expected to get busy at about noon today with Marian Buell and her crew setting up the tables for tomorrow's feed.
Rennick said she expects plenty of help tonight when she and her cooking crew set to peeling, slicing and mashing vegetables and potatoes. She'll also spend the night roasting the turkeys. A crew is expected to arrive in the early morning hours to begin carving them.
The home delivery teams will get an early start in the morning so they can finish up before the sit-down meal begins at noon. There will be plenty of people to serve diners and carry around coffee. Volunteers will move among the tables throughout the meal, clearing away places and getting them ready for incoming diners.
The kitchen crew, including dishwashers, will be busy throughout the day. The dining room clean-up crew is expected to start doing its thing shortly before 3, so everyone can get home to their families and friends and as quickly as possible.
Rennick seemed unfazed by the daunting task ahead of her in an early morning telephone conversation today.
"I think we're as ready as we can get," she said. "It's as good as it gets; we're at the 11th hour."