A heaping of helpers: Thank Meal draws 100s of volunteers, guests
About 150 volunteers distributed roughly 800 meals this Thanksgiving.
Goodwill was abundant this holiday season as 150 volunteers arrived to distribute Thanksgiving meals.
Danny Marjama of Menahga helped for the first time at the 40th annual Thank Meal, held at Riverside United Methodist Church. A Menahga High School graduate, he returned to the area to care for his ailing father, who recently passed away.
Marjama hustled hot meals out to those picking them up curbside, like Kory James. Her husband, Ron, became paralyzed following a car accident in March 2020.
Marjama worked alongside Lon Krieg. This was Krieg’s third year volunteering at the Thank Meal.
“I just go where they put me,” he said of the various duties he’s handled over the years. “It feels like you give back something to the community. People have been very generous. A lot of people give money, and the ones that can’t, don’t, but that’s fine.”
This year’s meal featured turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green beans, bun and a piece of pie.
There was no charge for the turkey dinner with all the trimmings, but freewill donations help offset the cost.
“It gives everybody that feeling of community and of thankfulness,” Krieg said.
Leah Quinn has been organizing the Thank Meal for a decade. She and her cadre of volunteers operate like a well-oiled machine, prepping 45 turkeys, mashing potatoes and cooking green beans in the two days leading up to Thanksgiving. The Park Rapids American Legion family made the stuffing this year, Quinn said. Coborn’s donated pies.
Shelly Mahowald is a longtime volunteer – 26 years. She organizes the drivers and delivery routes.
Everything ran smoothly Thanksgiving Day. “By 9:30 a.m. we were an hour ahead of schedule,” she said. “We had a lot of early morning help, which was really helpful.”
Drivers distributed a little under 600 meals on Thursday. The mission is to help those in need, whether they are homebound or unable to afford or cook food.
Mahowald said there were so many drivers, she was able to easily divide the deliveries.
“People were very, very gracious,” she said. “We had one particular driver that was willing. He went almost all the way to Itasca State Park. This same driver went to Osage, and then he went south of Osage about five miles, so huge distances.”
Another driver went to Hubbard, and yet another to Nevis, she said.
Mahowald credited Quinn with being “an amazing organizer.” She also praised Ryan Vrieze, the “head chef.” He’s been involved with the Thank Meal for six years.
“He’s level-headed. He’s methodical. He’s fun,” Mahowald said.
Reservations were required for those wishing to dine in the fellowship hall. Roughly 200 attended, according to Quinn.
Ann and Rex Lindblom gathered their family at the Thank Meal, bringing son Tim, grandkids Jake and Madison, daughter-in-law Lori and Lori’s parents, Bill and Kathie Schmieg from Rapid City, S.D.
“They came all the way for the Thanksgiving dinner,” Ann said.
“This way, we didn’t have to cook,” added Tim.
Jan and Harry Dodge of Park Rapids, along with Alvin Brown, had never been to the Thank Meal.
“We’re usually home. We have people over, but this year the family went all over the country, so being the three of us, we decided we’d try this,” Jan said, adding there was plenty of food. “Won’t go away hungry.”