The COVID-19 pandemic may have altered the way the local Moose Lodge will host its annual Thanksgiving Dinner this year, but what remains the same are the people who volunteer and prepare the meals.
The lodge will be doing curbside service Thursday from noon to 3 p.m. outside its building at 2704 Hackathorn Lane, where they will give out boxed food to people in need. They also plan to deliver to seniors who are homebound.
The meals will be distributed from the back room, where in normal years has served as a place for people to get their meals buffet style then sit and socialize with others.
There are 20 turkeys, 15 hams, 200 pounds of potatoes as well as sweet potatoes, dressing and pies donated by the community. The Homestead Bakery has given 300 rolls that will be included in the to-go boxes.
Kim Morrison with the lodge expects about 300 meals to be given out, but not as many as in years past because there are more groups in the community that are helping people this year, she said.
"This is going to be a strange year," Morrison said, adding that the lodge made the decision to give out the dinners curbside a couple of weeks ago.
If the lodge were going to put on the dinner this year, “We would do it curbside and try to keep as many people safe as we could,” said longtime member Joan Krog.
The Moose Lodge’s Thanksgiving Day Dinner tradition began with Anna and Dick Ross, members who invited their friends to the lodge one year for a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner. The date of the first feast is debated among Moose members, but a plaque in the lodge commemorating the couple on the first meal is dated 1989.
Then it was decided to open it up to the public, "and we’ve been doing it every since," Krog said.
Krog and her daughter, Betty Champlin, have volunteered to help with the Thanksgiving meal for 31 years.
“It is something that people enjoy coming out to, so why not?" Krog asked. "It makes your heart feel good to do all this stuff for people."
Doing the dinner is important “because it brings us smiles when you see the people coming in. They’re so appreciative,” Champlin said. “They’re glad to get a meal. They enjoy the atmosphere.”
Volunteer Kenny Bergeson has only missed two Thanksgiving Day Dinners over the past 31 years.
It’s about everybody getting together and doing the fun stuff, he said Wednesday afternoon while cutting celery for the dressing.
Bergeson would later use ther electric roasters in his trailer to heat up many of the sides. The turkeys will be heated with various roasters inside the lodge building.
The thing about Gillette is the community helps others, said volunteer Jerry Hite as he peeled potatoes.
"We love to do it. We look forward to it every year," Krog said, adding that 2020 has been a challenging year. "Hopefully next year we'll be back to full service."