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Community Christmas dinner may not happen

As organizers of a Thanksgiving community dinner are gearing up for gobble day, the organizers of a similar event at Christmas say their feast faces an uncertain future.

The 20th annual Thanksgiving Day community turkey feed will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the St. Jude Parish Center next Thursday.

"There's still a need for people to volunteer," said Alan Sorensen, who is spearheading the effort this year. Volunteers needed include kitchen staff, servers, coffee pourers, delivery drivers, dishwashers, and entertainers, he said.

"Anyone who wants to be in charge of the kitchen and getting the meal out or being in charge of the dining room is certainly welcome and can give me a call," he added.

Sorensen, who is the wire editor at the Havre Daily News, has taken the reins from volunteer Lita Thisselle, who headed the event the past two years.

The turkey feed is sponsored by an anonymous donor and provides a turkey dinner to hundreds of people every year. Shut-ins can arrange to have a dinner delivered to their homes.

A similar community feast held Christmas Day at the Eagles Club may not materialize this year, club manager Tom Farnham said today. The annual event, which provides a turkey dinner with fixings to between 500 and 700 people, is in need of an organizational chair, Farnham said.

Bob Sivertsen of Chinook, who has chaired the event in years past, told Farnham several weeks ago he was stepping down this year, Farnham said.

"There's a lot of people asking me (about the dinner) that are willing to help if someone chairs it," he said. "It's not too late if someone steps forward."

Sivertsen, who could not be reached for comment, wants to spend this year with his family, Farnham said.

The Thanksgiving turkey feed exemplifies the holiday spirit, Sorensen said.

"The dinner started out about 20 years ago by another anonymous donor who wanted to make sure that the needy in Havre had a nice comfortable sit-down meal they could enjoy," Sorensen said. "After a couple of years, it became a communitywide deal. Everyone is encouraged to come - rich, poor, singles, couples, families - everyone."

Last year, the event provided nearly 600 meals, including 248 home deliveries. This year, the feast will consist of 44 turkeys, 105 pumpkin pies, and 250 pounds of mashed potatoes, as well as gravy, stuffing, vegetables and other trimmings, Sorensen said.

"We upped the ante this year because we ran low on turkey last year," he said.

All of the food is purchased from Gary & Leo's IGA. IGA will cook the turkeys and bake the pies for the event. Volunteers will begin slicing the turkey at the parish center kitchen Wednesday night. Anyone who wants to help should show up at 6 p.m., Sorensen said.

Local sports teams and clubs have volunteered to help out on Thanksgiving Day, he said. The Lights and Skylights basketball teams as well as the Havre High School Key Club will perform a variety of tasks before and during the dinner, he said, adding that about 100 volunteers are needed for the event.

Sorensen is still trying to recruit entertainment for the dinner. Last year, several local singers as well as the Anchor Academy Boys Choir performed during the dinner.

The event can be exhausting for volunteers, Sorensen acknowledged, adding that the turnout makes the hard work worthwhile.

"For me, the most rewarding part is getting done, sitting down and saying, 'Whew, it's over,'" Sorensen said. "It's wonderful to see everybody and get a great cross-section of the community."

Thanksgiving meals will be delivered from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. People who want to have a meal delivered should call the North Central Senior Citizens Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Orders will end at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

All of the leftover food from the turkey feed will be donated to the Feed My Sheep Soup Kitchen.

"The spirit of the project has evolved to bring the whole community together as one big extended family to celebrate the holiday," Sorensen said. "We would encourage everyone who's able to to come down and enjoy the meal."

Anyone wishing to volunteer should call Sorensen at 265-6795, ext. 15. Those interested in being a delivery driver should call Brian Morse at 265-7343. The number at the senior center is 265-5464.


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