McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

November 22, 2012

Volunteers ready for annual Pittsburg County Community Thanksgiving Dinner

By James Beaty
Staff Writer

McALESTER — Everything is set for the annual Pittsburg County Community Thanksgiving Dinner, with  lots of hungry participants the main ingredient needed to help make this year’s dinner as successful as the 26 previous ones.

Plans call for volunteers to serve the sit-down meal at noon Thursday at the George Nigh National Guard Armory, at the corner of Third Street and Polk Avenue. Home deliveries and the distribution of carryout meals were to begin earlier.

Volunteers have done their best to ensure they have plenty of food for everyone who wants to participate.

“We’re prepared for 3,500,” said former Pittsburg County Assessor Jim Kelley, one of the volunteers who helps plan the annual meal.

All of those meals won’t be served at the armory. Many will be distributed through the home deliveries, and more will be picked up at the armory as carryouts.

Still, volunteers look forward to the sit-down meal for those who do go to the armory, where their food will be dished up by elected officials, county employees, and other volunteers.

Also, something new will be added at the armory for this year’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner — winter coats for those who need them.

“A group of volunteers will have the coats when the Thanksgiving dinner is served,” Kelley said. He said the volunteers have collected coats in all sizes.

Once again, the free holiday meal is open to everyone who wants to participate, with no age or income guidelines in place.

Those who help plan the annual Community  Thanksgiving Dinner have become accustomed to working with large numbers. Several of the volunteers have been working with the project so long, that they have their roles down to a science.

Charlene Spears and Kelley have worked with the project for the entire 27 years since it began.

“When we first started, it went so fast, it was rough,” Spears said. “Then, it smoothed out. Everybody knows their job.”

Another volunteer, David Spillman said he’s participated in about 24 of the dinners over the years, while volunteers Tommy Graham and Miller Newman have participated in all but one.

It all starts with the 50 turkeys that were prepared for the meal, each of which weighed from 20-to-26 pounds, Kelley said,

“We used from 75 to 80 pounds of biscuit mix for the dressing,” Spears said. In addition, volunteers also used 100 pounds of corn meal and 100 pounds of flour as part of the dressings’ ingredients.

They also used 20 dozen eggs, Spears said. That works out to 240 individual eggs which had to be cracked, one-by-one, and then added to the mix.

Volunteers in another part of the armory stayed busy chopping celery — chopping a total of 240 bunches, each of which contained several celery stalks.

Included in the mix were 500 pounds of onions, all of which were sautéed for that extra, added flavor.

Plans called for the dressing to be served along with 48 gallons of cranberry sauce

Also included on the menu were 160 pounds of potatoes, 40 gallons of giblet gravy and 156 gallons of green beans.

“They will get a roll with each dinner,” Kelley said of those who will be served the meals.

Also, 3,360 pieces of pumpkin pie are ready  for dessert, with each participant also getting a soft drink.

Home deliveries to those living in rural Pittsburg County and who made arrangements for the deliveries in advance were to begin around 9 a.m. today.

Home deliveries to Community Thanksgiving Dinner participants in McAlester were set to start around 10 a.m., while those who made arrangements to pick up dinners for carryouts can start doing so around 11 a.m., according to organizers of the event.

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