The Salvation Army Idaho Falls Corp is preparing its annual Thanksgiving Community Dinner for those looking to enjoy the holiday and share a hot meal with others.
Food donations and volunteers have come from across the city, including churches, charities and private businesses.
The dinner is scheduled between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday at the Elks Lodge at 640 East Elva Street. The traditional cutting of the turkey will happen at 10:50 a.m. before the meal starts. Face masks are recommended for those attending, but will not be required.
John Birks, who is directing the arrangements of the dinner for the first time this year, said there would be options for families who want to dine in and those who want to pick up a meal via drive-thru. In special cases, volunteers are delivering meals to families who cannot attend the dinner.
The Idaho Falls Thanksgiving Community Dinner is a tradition going back 32 years to provide a meal on Thanksgiving Day for the community, whether for people who are unable to meet with family, those who need help getting food during the holidays or those who want to enjoy the company of others in their community.
Birks said there is enough food this year to feed more than 800 people. He estimated more than 80 volunteers will be present to help on Thanksgiving Day. He expects they’ll need it all to feed those who arrive for the dinner, as last year, during the pandemic and the resulting economic turmoil, the Salvation Army estimated it provided meals to 900 people for Thanksgiving.
Among those donating food for the meal are US Food Chef’Store, which donated potatoes, the Greater Idaho Falls Association of Realtors, which provided turkeys and will be assisting with meal preparations.
“We’ll have basically the whole Thanksgiving spread,” Birks said.
Trinity United Methodist Church and St. Paul United Methodist Church both provided beans. Texas Roadhouse donated rolls. Perkins Restaurant & Bakery prepared pies, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has helped organize the event. Birks said Melaleuca was a major donor to the dinner.
“It’s just a blessing to see so many people willing and wanting to help their community,” Birks said.
Elder Dylan Durtschi has been working with the Salvation Army on behalf of the LDS church. He said he had helped with accepting and managing donations. He said the experience helped him feel more connected to Idaho Falls and the people he worked with to help put together the dinner.
“Whether I know them or not, it just gives you a sense of community,’ Durtschi said.
Last year the Salvation Army was not able to host the Thanksgiving Community Dinner in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, instead handing out meals to people at the Elks Lodge via a drive-thru.
This year, Birks is glad he will be able to host the dinner in person. He said he was grateful to all of those who volunteered and provided food.
The Salvation Army Idaho Falls Corp will be closed Wednesday due to preparations for the Thanksgiving meal.