Green bean casseroles, potato dishes among foods still needed for Community Thanksgiving Dinner
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Preparations are almost complete for the Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Steamboat Springs Community Center on Thursday, but organizers are still looking for volunteers and a few key dishes.
The event, sponsored by Mountain Valley Bank, relies on food donations to fill plates. Green bean casseroles, sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes currently are in short supply, according to Kate Nowak, executive director of Routt County United Way, which organizes the event. According to the online sign-up sheet on Tuesday evening, volunteers also were needed to provide green salad and cranberry sauce. To sign up to volunteer for the event or donate food, visit routtcountyunitedway.org/cause/routt-county-united-way-community-thanksgiving-dinner.
Food items can be dropped off at the Community Center, 1597 Lincoln Ave., between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Thursday. The dinner goes from 1 to 5 p.m. Volunteers also are needed to help clean up and wash dishes after the meal, Nowak said.
The free holiday dinner has been an annual tradition for more than 20 years, according to Nowak. Last year, 870 people participated, she said, welcoming longtime residents as well as new or visiting members of the community.
That communal aspect of the meal is what really draws people, Nowak said, providing a sense of companionship and gratitude, the basic elements of what Thanksgiving is all about. She described past community dinners as joyful celebrations. People often sit with complete strangers, getting to share stories and learn about one another over heaps of turkey and casseroles.
“It’s so fun and everyone is in a good mood,” Nowak said.
The feast is a community effort from start to finish. Some volunteers arrive early to carve the turkeys or prepare the spread, while others help to clean up. Local businesses donate amenities like dinnerware and high chairs for infants. Elissa Chapman, a second-grade teacher at Soda Creek Elementary, has her students decorate placemats for the dinner.
Last year, 274 people donated food, according to Nowak, and 125 people volunteered to help with the dinner itself.
What: Routt County United Way Community Thanksgiving Dinner
When: 1 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 28
Where: Steamboat Springs Community Center, 597 Lincoln Ave.
How to help: The dinner is free, but organizers are still in need of a few food items. Go to RouttCountyUnitedWay.org and click the sign-up tab under the community turkey dinner to see what is still needed.
Local chef Darren Burcher has volunteered at the event for several years, helping to manage the kitchen. Burcher said he does not have a lot of family in town, so he prefers to help bring joy and tasty food to others on Thanksgiving.
“It feels like a good time to give back to the community,” he said. “It’s a perfect way to lead into the holiday season.”
One of his favorite parts of the community dinner is seeing the various and sometimes creative ways people cook classic Thanksgiving dishes. He remembers one year when a local restaurant donated turkey medallions, which he described as the poultry version of filet mignon.
“They were so tender and delicious,” he said.
GO Alpine, a local taxi service, is providing free rides to and from the event within the city limits, according to Nowak. The Community Center also is accessible along the free Steamboat Springs Transit bus route. City bus drivers and GO Alpine drivers will receive a free Thanksgiving meal, she added.
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