McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

November 26, 2013

Volunteers cooking up Thanksgiving dinners for annual community event

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — Turkeys simmered at a number of sites around the George Nigh National Guard Armory on Monday, with  preparations under way for the 28th Annual Pittsburg County Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

Fifty turkeys, weighing an average of 24 pounds each, were ordered for this year’s event. With so many turkeys, volunteers Tommy Graham and David Spillman were busy setting up portable electric roasters in various outlets around the armory.

Volunteer Charlene Spears worked to make sure each turkey had the proper seasoning — one bird at a time.

A number of other volunteers joined Spears, including veterans of many previous Thanksgiving dinners as well as those who were helping out for the first time.

This year marked the first time Mark Lauerman volunteered to help at the armory.

“He’s a rookie,” Graham said, joking with the new volunteer.

“I’ve been wanting to for years, but I’ve been working,” said Lauerman, who has previously worked for Eastern Oklahoma State College and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Now, with some free time, he donned a pair of plastic gloves and crumbled cornbread to be used for dressing.

While this year marked Lauerman’s first time to help, Larry Ivey said this will mark the 19th year he’s volunteered. He started helping in 1994.

In addition to assisting with tasks such as crumbling cornbread for dressing, Ivey also helps out in a way highly appreciated by many of his fellow volunteers. He cooks the meals for them to eat so they don’t have to leave the armory when they’re working.

“Tuesday, we’ll have a big pot of beef stew for the crew,” Ivey said. He’s also planning to a meal of smoked ribs and pork loin.

Ivey said when he first volunteered, Spears and B.G. Jones had cooked for the crew, a task he’s gradually assimilated into his duties.

“It’s kind of evolved where I’ve been cooking for several years,” he said.

Ivey said he feels like that’s his major contribution, “to feed the crew.”

Once again, this year’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner is set for the George Nigh National Guard Armory at the corner of Third Street and Polk Avenue. The number to call for those who want to participate is 918-423-7379.

Volunteers plan to serve the free holiday meal with all the trimmings at noon on Thanksgiving Day. Carry-outs are expected to be available for pick-up at 11 a.m. Thursday, with home deliveries planned to start around 9 a.m. and to continue throughout the morning.

Among the new volunteers were Shaun Billy and Sunnie Barton.

Barton and said they had some time available and wanted to help feed the people.

“It’s the holidays, “Barton said by way of explaining their volunteer spirit.

Contact James Beaty at