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Sister Kathleen Atkinson, left, had a long grocery list to fill on Sunday afternoon while shopping at Walmart for food items for a community Thanksgiving dinner today. In back are Jason Locken, left, assistant manager at Walmart in north Bismarck, and Duane Ehrens, who is a chef and will be preparing the free meal for an estimated 350 people. Also helping with the shopping was Jim Barnhardt with New Song Church in Bismarck.

Tom Stromme, TRIBUNE

As Americans gather at Thanksgiving tables across the nation today they have much to be thankful for. While many places in the world are in turmoil, we still live in prosperity. Despite the recent economic downturn, North Dakota remains the envy of many.

Things aren’t perfect, there are still too many families and individuals who need help. And the community hasn’t forgotten them. A glance at recent stories in the Tribune reflect the efforts to help the less fortunate or those who need temporary help.

There will be community meals today in Bismarck and Mandan. The meals are possible because of volunteers who spend time planning, buying groceries, cooking the food, serving it and cleaning up afterward. There are almost more volunteers than they need.

The Bismarck community meal is from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today at First Presbyterian Church, 214 E. Thayer Ave. Doors open at 11:15 a.m. The dinner in Mandan is from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today at First Lutheran Church, 408 Ninth St. N.W. The Bismarck meal is directed by First Presbyterian Church and Ministry on the Margins and gets support from other churches, volunteers and businesses, including Bismarck Walmart stores that sponsor the meal. Bismarck organizers expect to serve 350 people. Most of the guests wouldn’t have anywhere else to go.

During this holiday season it’s not just the meals that are important. People share in other ways.

The Empty Stocking program provides six agencies with items such as clothing, food, toys and gift cards. The agencies are the Abused Adult Resource Center, Bismarck Early Childhood Education Program, Community Action, Charles Hall Youth Services, AID Inc, and the Ruth Meiers Hospitality House. The agencies can use help throughout the year, but their needs are acute during the holiday months.

The Christmas Playpen program provides the opportunity for residents to drop off used toys outside the south Dan’s Supermarket. The toys are repaired by prison inmates and given to families by the Salvation Army. Toys will be collected through Friday.

The Salvation Army’s bell ringers are out and the Open Your Heart campaign will begin soon.

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays aren’t the only times we see people helping others. A Forum News Service story on Monday reminds us when bad things happen people are there to help. In this case, Farm Rescue has been helping farmers in the Braddock and Linton areas. One farmer is battling cancer and the other lost an arm in a baler accident. Farm Rescue was started in 2005 by Bill Gross, who grew up on a North Dakota farm and now flies a cargo plane for a living. The organization recently expanded to its sixth state and helped its 500th case earlier this year. The organization, which gets its volunteers from a variety of walks of life, helps plant and fertilize crops, delivers hay and assists with harvest. If a farmer or rancher needs assistance they can ask Farm Rescue for help.

It’s derived from the spirit that built this nation. When someone has bad luck their neighbors come to the rescue.

We see different acts of kindness throughout the year and they fade in our memories. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to remember the good things that happened during the year. The birth of a child, the news that illness has been overcome or landing the dream job. Today we should say thanks for the good things that happened and remember those who are less fortunate. Hopefully, we can give them some good memories to celebrate next Thanksgiving.

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