McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

November 27, 2013

Volunteers talking turkey for Community Thanksgiving Dinner

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — As aromas wafted their way through the George Nigh National Guard Armory, volunteer Tommy Graham held a still smoking turkey high over a pan as the sauces slowly dripped from it.

“We cooked and deboned 34 of these yesterday,” Graham said as he held the turkey aloft. Volunteers had then placed another 16 turkeys in roasters, letting them slowly cook throughout the night.

Graham joined other volunteers at the George Nigh National Guard Army in McAlester, where preparations were steaming up for the 28th Annual Pittsburg County Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

More volunteers showed up to help at the armory Tuesday as they continued preparations for the annual event.

“We chopped 400 pounds of onions yesterday and we’ve got people out there working on celery now,” Graham said, noting the area to the south of the kitchen where volunteers were busy chopping stalks of bright green celery to go into the dressing.

Among those doing the chopping were former Pittsburg County Assessor Jim Kelley, District 1 Pittsburg County Commissioner Gene Rogers and Miller Newman, president of the Pittsburg County Branch of the NAACP.  Volunteer Mark Lauerman had also returned to help for a second day.

District 2 Pittsburg County Commissioner Kevin Smith and volunteer Charlene Spears were busy discussing the finer points of what makes a great dressing, such as the inclusion of both cornbread and biscuits in the ingredients. That led Smith to recall how much he liked his grandmother’s dressing.

“It had enough sage in it to burn your eyebrows. It was good dressing,” he added.

Meanwhile, volunteers planned to continue taking calls throughout this afternoon, giving those who would like to participate in the event, but who still had not signed up, more time to do so.

The number to call through today is 918 423-7379, volunteers said.

That’s also the number for people in the Hartshorne area to call. They can also sign up in person at Hartshorne City Hall until 5 p.m. today, said City Clerk Dawn Dunkin.

Dunkin said those in the Hartshorne area who have made arrangements beforehand for carry-outs can pick the dinners up beginning around 10:30 or 11 on Thursday at City Hall. Home deliveries are planned for those who are unable to get to City Hall and who have made advance arrangements for the deliveries.

Volunteers in McAlester plan to serve the community Thanksgiving Dinner at noon Thursday at the National Guard Armory at the corner of Third Street and Polk Avenue.

Those who made arrangements to pick up dinners for carryout can do so at the armory beginning around 11 a.m. volunteers said, with plans to start home deliveries earlier that morning.

Contact James Beaty at