Stillwater’s 35th annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner is rapidly approaching. The volunteer-driven event is an opportunity to enjoy food and fellowship on a day associated with friends and family. “Turkey Squad” coordinator Paul Priegel spoke with the News Press about the community event that has become his personal Thanksgiving tradition.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about the dinner?

The Stillwater Community Thanksgiving Dinner will be held 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m on Thanksgiving Day at the First United Methodist Church Family Life Center at 400 W. 7th St. The Family Life Center has worked out really well for us the past few years because it’s a huge space that provides enough room for everyone. We don’t have to worry about moving people through so others can come in and eat. The dinner is supposed to be much more than a free meal. It’s not just some kind of giveaway; we mean for it to be a real community gathering for everyone, where you eat then maybe go grab a cup of coffee and a piece of pie and sit down and visit for a while, just like you would at home.

2. How many people are you expecting and what will you be serving?

Each year, we serve around 1,000 people from all walks of life. We see a lot of OSU students, but we also see a lot of families and individuals that just want to come be a part of it. We’ll be serving up a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings, including stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, sweet potatoes and dessert.

3. What do you still need in terms of volunteers and donations?

Our needs are constantly changing and the best way to find an up-to-date list is to follow Stillwater Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Facebook. You’ll find a link to our Sign-Up Genius page there that lists current needs and available volunteer shifts. Of course, we’re glad to find something for people to do if they want to help and don’t have a chance to sign up in advance.

If you are planning on dropping off a food item, please sign up on the link so we know what to expect. We will receive those items at the Family Life Center between 6-7 p.m. Wednesday or any time after 7 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

We have churches that donate different things. For example, a group from the Church of Christ donates hundreds of homemade pies. Something we can always use is what we call “Grandma salads,” like marshmallow fluff, gelatin salads; the accompaniments you take to or eat at your Grandma’s house.

4. How does your team make such a massive undertaking happen each year?

It’s only possible through donations and volunteers. Unfortunately, donations have been down in recent years. But the churches have really stepped up to make sure we can keep it going.

It’s been 35 years and we really want to start exploring how to make this sustainable financially. We start planning in July but it’s hard to get people thinking about Thanksgiving when it’s 112 degrees outside. Once we have the first cold snap, people come out of the woodwork because it feels like Thanksgiving. We would love more involvement from the community. 

If other obligations prevent you from volunteering or bringing food, monetary donations are always appreciated. Your tax deductible donations can be dropped off or mailed to the Community Thanksgiving Dinner c/o the First United Methodist Church Office.

5. What else do people need to know?

We will be delivering up to two meals per address for people who are disabled or homebound due to illness. People can call 405-372-5854 starting at 9 a.m. to make their orders. It’s a landline so if it’s busy, just keep trying. We’ll start making deliveries around 10 a.m.

But we just really want anyone who is able to, to come join us. It truly is a community event for everyone.

-Michelle Charles

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