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A day of thanks:Community Thanksgiving Meal serves 995

Co-chair Leah Bervig reported that the 36th annual Community Thanksgiving Meal served nearly 1,000 people. "It's a fun day. I can't think of any other place I'd want to be," she said. An army of volunteers working all day Wednesday and at the cra...

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Park Rapids School Board member Stephanie Carlson and her daughters, Kennedy and Kamree, prepare to deliver Thanksgiving meals to the homebound.

Co-chair Leah Bervig reported that the 36th annual Community Thanksgiving Meal served nearly 1,000 people.

"It's a fun day. I can't think of any other place I'd want to be," she said.

An army of volunteers working all day Wednesday and at the crack of dawn Thursday make the meal possible. There was no charge for the Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, but freewill donations help offset the cost.

Riverside United Methodist Church hosts the event, with Pastor Chip Nielsen blessing the food before it was delivered to the homebound.

Shelly Mahowald, who organizes the deliveries, praised the volunteer drivers.

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"We are so thankful today," she said. "We are here to celebrate life, family, love and friendship. I'm personally thankful that you are taking time to serve the community."

Park Rapids School Board member Stephanie Carlson brought her two daughters, Kennedy and Kamree, to help transport meals to the needy or those working on Thanksgiving Day, such as law enforcement and gas station employees.

Many families make the event a day of community service.

"We brought our whole family to help here," said Karie Lindow. Her daughter, Addison, was one of the 11 family members volunteering. "Grandma stayed home with the little ones."

Pauline Wambolt and Crystal Brown are sisters and longtime volunteers at the meal. Brown said the team discovered time-saving shortcuts this year, such as opening the cans of green beans the night before, draining them and putting them in Ziploc bags.

"It saved countertop space, too," Wambolt added.

Both were effusive about the relatively new cooks in the kitchen: Ryan Vrieze and Jake Quinn.

"We can't say enough about them. They work with the grace of a professional chef," Wambolt said.

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Linda Bair called Bervig and Johnson "awesome," complimenting them for their ability to stay calm even when there are obstacles, such as when the ovens quit working last year. Bair has made the Thanksgiving Meal a part of her holiday tradition for 30 years.

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Valerie Yates of Nevis joins the long line of volunteers on Thanksgiving Day who prepare hundreds of hot meals for delivery. (Photos by Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)

Related Topics: PARK RAPIDS
Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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