By Alan Sorensen
Anyone interested in putting in countless hours of work to organize a smoothly-run Thanksgiving dinner for one and all in Havre and the surrounding area?
The Thanksgiving dinners that brought the community together every year for 17 years appear to have come to an end as a result of fatigue. Only 525 people took advantage of the meal last year, about 100 to 300 fewer diners than in previous years.
I started it with the hope that some service organization would step forward and pick it up , the anonymous donor who footed the bill every year said in a telephone interview Wednesday. And theres no one to take it over.
More than 100 volunteers were required to feed between 500 and 800 people each year. Many were served at the sit-down meal from noon to 3 p.m. and a nearly equal number were presented with home delivered meals before noon. The entire cost of the dinner was paid for by the anonymous donor and all offers of financial assistance including feast-day donations were refused.
Kelly Stewart was the dinners ramrod for most of the years the meal was served in the St. Jude Social Hall. She said a week ago that she thought she could run the event for one more year. Unable to recruit someone to train to take her place, though, Stewart decided to call it quits now instead of later.
Kellys tired of it, the donor said.
The dinner menu was large. Last year, it included 22 turkeys, 110 pumpkin pies, 4 gallons of black olives, 2 gallons of green olives, 2 gallons of sweet pickles, 4 cases of corn, 2 cases of potatoes, 3 gallons of cranberries, 12 pounds of butter, 60 dozen dinner rolls, a case and two cans of whipped cream, 5 cases of milk, 50 pounds of dry bread, and 25 pounds of flour.
Stewart, who was at the heart of the dinner, began preparing stuffing and potatoes and getting the kitchen set up the day before Thanksgiving.
Then there were numerous volunteers willing to work in various capacities to make the dinner a success.
The day of the dinner, Stewart got special assistance from Marian Buell, Olive Watson and Buells daughter, Susan Widdekind, who oversaw dining room volunteers; Kathy Doney, who organized Beta bakers; Brian Morse, who scheduled home deliveries, and personnel at Hill County Cooperative, who carved the turkeys the night before.
Havre Jaycees and others delivered the meals and Havre High Key Club set up tables and decorations. Volunteers at the North Central Senior Citizens Center took orders for home-delivered meals during the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Volunteers from the Sunrise Club provided cleanup.
In some years, volunteer musicians provided background music for the diners.
The turkeys and pies were baked at Gary and Leos IGA.
Some leftovers were donated to Feed My Sheep Soup Kitchen and others went to the St. Jude School lunch program.
Much of the network required for putting on the dinner is still in place. The anonymous sponsor said there may still be time to put on the dinner this year if someone comes forward to take charge. He said hed like to find someone to take over, too, because he may decide to retire soon and move elsewhere.
I dont mind paying for it, he said, but somebody has to accept the responsibility.