Teresa Reis slid a turkey into the oven as Jim Barnhardt and his mother, Frances, wiped down the basement kitchen of Trinity Lutheran Church.

Around 8 a.m. Wednesday, the volunteers began preparing half the 18 turkeys to cook for the free community Thanksgiving meal, limited by oven space at First Presbyterian Church, where most preparations took place. Coordinated by a committee of church and volunteer organizations, 80 volunteers will help prepare and serve the meal planned for 350 people Thursday.

"Nobody should be left alone on Thanksgiving," said Reis, who helped coordinate volunteers.

Now in its second year, the event is open to anyone on Thanksgiving, from those less fortunate to people without family to elderly residents.

"A mixture of all kinds of people that just want to come for the camaraderie and socializing," said Duane Ehrens, a Basin Electric food service coordinator who volunteered to prepare turkeys.

Gladys Cairns was preparing name tags for volunteers Wednesday morning in the basement of First Presbyterian Church, just across from the kitchen where prep work for 150 pounds of potatoes, gravy and other food was to get underway.

"This is a wonderful way of serving people," Cairns said. She served with the committee in previous years of First Presbyterian's Thanksgiving meals before a committee partner moved to Mandan, starting another annual meal there.

"We all pitch in, and it's fun," she said.

Twenty dining tables were set by 10 a.m. Wednesday as a group of volunteers began peeling potatoes. A flame flickered under a pot of giblets for gravy on the stove.

"It's a full Thanksgiving meal," Reis said of the turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, corn, buns, gravy, pickles, carrots, cranberries and pies served in a buffet.

Grants from two Wal-Mart locations sponsored the food, with other items pitched in from local organizations. 

"It's a full day's work," Reis said. "A full day's fun."

Damita Engel was helping Cairns with name tags and said her family joined First Presbyterian in 2013 for its outgoing and giving nature. 

"We're very excited to be a part of this church family," she said. 

Reis, who has her own family meal later on Thursday, said the opportunity to give to others inspired her to volunteer for the community meal.

"I love to see the smile on their faces. I love to see a community come together," she said.

Cairns thanked the volunteers who gave their time for preparing the meal.

"It’s a great volunteer activity because we gain as much as we give. It’s truly Thanksgiving," she said.

The free community meal is from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday at First Presbyterian Church, 214 East Thayer Ave. in Bismarck.

Committee members include Ministry on the Margins, First Presbyterian Church, J & R Vacuum and Sewing, Heaven Helpers Cafe and Bismarck-Mandan Unitarian Universalist Congregation.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.


Crime and Courts Reporter