McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

November 30, 2013

3,000 fed through Pittsburg County Community Thanksgiving Dinner

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — Approximately 3,000 individuals were fed through the Pittsburg County Community Thanksgiving Dinner in McAlester.

“It went real well,” said Jim Kelley, a former Pittsburg County assessor and one of the organizers of the event.

“The final count is real close to the 3,000 mark, possibly a little more,” Kelley said.

Those planning the dinner said they had prepared food for approximately 200 more people than they expected.

“We ran out of dressing right at the end,” Kelley said. “We thought we had plenty extra.”

Still, no one went away hungry, according to Kelley.

“I think everybody got away with plenty to eat,” he said. The free holiday meals were available to anyone who wanted to participate, with no age or income guidelines in place.

Meals were served in-person Thanksgiving Day at the George Nigh National Guard Armory in McAlester, with meals also available for pick-up and with home deliveries available for those in Pittsburg County who could not made it to the armory.

This year, from 20-to-30 less meals were delivered in the Hartshorne area when compared to last  year, while numbers were up in Quinton and Kiowa, he said.

For the deliveries, organizers of the event were helped by those who volunteer their services on Thanksgiving Day. Other volunteers assisted with food preparation, helping with everything from chopping celery to crumbling cornbread for use in the dressing.

“There were a tremendous number of new faces I hadn’t seen before,” Kelley said, referring to new volunteers who stepped up to assist with the Community Thanksgiving Dinner for the first time this year.

“I didn’t get to meet them all,” Kelley said, but he added their help is much-appreciated and the event could not have been successful without them.

After serving the final meals, volunteers were able to perform an initial clean-up at the armory and leave by 2:30 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Several volunteers planned to return by Monday and complete the final clean-up, according to Kelley.

Meanwhile, plans for next year’s 29th Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner are already under way.

That includes replacing a few of the electric cookers and other equipment. Kelly said it’s important to have properly- working equipment on hand in advance of next Thanksgiving, so workers won’t have to replace equipment when starting next year’s food preparations.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.