The 37th annual Community Thanksgiving Meal served 875 people, according to .

co-chairs Leah Bervig and Krista Johnson.

There was no charge for the turkey dinner with all the trimmings, but freewill donations help offset the cost. Riverside United Methodist Church hosts the event.

Many families make the event a day of community service.

Kali and Justin Mitteness brought their two children, Emily and Jack. They worked in the pie room, cutting and prepping.

“This is our first time helping, but it’s something we’ve always been wanting to do,” Kali said.

“We have a great variety of pies this year,” said Linda Bair, surveying the plates of chocolate, pecan, coconut creme, strawberry, banana, apple, lemon meringue and pumpkin pie. Bair has made the Thanksgiving Meal a part of her holiday tradition for more than 30 years.

New this year, the takeout meal was eliminated.

Bervig anticipated a slight decrease in numbers as a result, but explained that the takeout option was impractical. “We had to set up a whole separate food line and run it throughout the meal to get people takeouts all day. It was logistically not feasible,” she said.

“Plus, our mission is community, too,” Bair said. “We’re happy to deliver to people who can’t get here, but we’d really love to have the people that can eat with us.”

Nicole Kovar, a Minnesota DNR invasive species specialist, has worked with Pastor Chip Nielsen on other projects. Looking for something to do in town, she volunteered to deliver meals to the homebound on Thanksgiving Day.

Nicole Kovar and Nathan Strei, their coolers stocked with hot turkey dinners, are ready to distribute another batch of meals to the homebound.
Nicole Kovar and Nathan Strei, their coolers stocked with hot turkey dinners, are ready to distribute another batch of meals to the homebound.

Kovar was impressed by the energy of the people and the wonderful atmosphere. “And then the people that you meet when you deliver, they’re so happy to see you and grateful. So sweet,” she said. “One gal she was having six meals and she was having a group of widowers over.”

Hubbard County commissioner Tom Krueger and wife Joyce were among the other first-time volunteers at Thursday’s feast. They also distributed meals around town.

“Everybody was very thankful,” agreed Heather Forseman, who brought hot meals to those in need. Her daughters, Madison and Danyelle, assisted.

“I’m a provider in town, and one of my patients suggested this, that they needed help delivering. Then I roped my girls into doing it with me,” Heather said. “I really enjoyed it.”

Bervig said there’s always a need for drivers on Thanksgiving Day.

“We take all the volunteers, and I found something to boss them around,” Bervig joked.

Becky Maninga holds the youngest volunteer at the dinner, her granddaughter, two-month-old Emery Maninga. The Maningas – including Emery's parents, Sarah and Drew – have made volunteering at the event a family tradition for years.
Becky Maninga holds the youngest volunteer at the dinner, her granddaughter, two-month-old Emery Maninga. The Maningas – including Emery's parents, Sarah and Drew – have made volunteering at the event a family tradition for years.