Printed on: November 22, 2012

Dinner is served

Hundreds of volunteers prepare today's community Thanksgiving feast

By Clark Corbin

Amy Wetzel didn't mind giving up part of her holiday break from college to help prepare today's community Thanksgiving feast.

Wetzel, a freshman at Idaho State University, and 14 other college and high school students devoted most of Tuesday night to baking pies at First Presbyterian Church.

The youth group members and volunteers cranked out 50 pumpkin pies to serve during the free community feast.

The dinner begins at noon at the Idaho Falls Elks Lodge No. 1087, 640 E. Elva St.

"It's just great to give back and to help the community have an awesome Thanksgiving," Wetzel said.

Armed with 50 cans of pumpkin pie mix, 25 pounds of sugar, five dozen eggs and 50 cans of evaporated milk, the student volunteers broke into small groups and tackled the pie challenge assembly-line style.

"It usually gets kind of messy," admitted Wetzel, who volunteered to make desert for the fourth year.

Wetzel and her friends weren't the only ones working overtime to prepare today's meal.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Saints contributed 750 Jell-O salads, Texas Roadhouse employees donated 1,000 rolls, the staff at the Little Deli Restaurant prepared celery and onions, and Shari's Restaurant chipped in even more pies.

Sue Norr, who has volunteered to help organize the dinner for the past 23 years, said she always is pleasantly amazed by how people come together to support the effort.

"A lot of different organizations help with this -- churches, businesses and volunteers," Norr said.

That level of coordination is important, given the organizers expect to serve as many as 700 people during today's event. Volunteers also plan to deliver up to 300 more meals to residents who are unable to attend the dinner, while any leftovers will go to the Idaho Falls Soup Kitchen, City of Refuge and The Ark Shelter.

As for the event itself, it attracts all comers. Seniors, residents who don't have family in town, people who aren't able to make a holiday meal for themselves and singles typically turn out, Norr said.

"Some come as a family, and we set up a table for them and they have a good time," Norr said. "But anybody and everybody can come. It doesn't matter who you are."

Bailey O'Bryant, a 15-year-old who attends the Compass Academy, said he volunteered to bake pies with the First Presbyterian Church youth group because he didn't want anybody to go without a Thanksgiving dinner.

"I like the fact that we're all coming together as a community," O'Bryant said. "I think it's a good image for the community."

Clark Corbin can be reached at 542-6761. Comment on this story on Post Talk, /posttalk.

If you go

The 24th annual community Thanksgiving feast begins at noon today at the Idaho Falls Elks Lodge, 640 E. Elva St. The event is free and open to anyone interested in attending.