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Volunteers feed nearly 800 at Community Thank Meal

This year’s meal was restricted to home deliveries or curbside pickup.

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Nicole Kovar, at right, brought French exchange student Antoine Durand to help at the 2021 Thank Meal.
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The 39th annual Community Thanksgiving Meal served an estimated 750 to 800, according to co-chairs Leah Quinn and Krista Johnson.

This year’s meal was restricted to home deliveries or curbside pickup.

“Deliveries are up big-time. Out of all of the meals, there are almost 600 deliveries. The rest are pick-ups,” Quinn said.

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Thankfully, “tons of people offered to drive,” she added.

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Shelly Mahowald instructs volunteer driver Bobby Wilkins on how and where to distribute 75 meals on his route. "This is a labor-intensive delivery," she told him.

The number of in-person volunteers was down compared to last year, Quinn said. “But the ones that are here are working hard and doing what needs to be done, and that’s all that matters.”

After consulting with several people, Quinn said they decided against serving food in-person in the interest of everyone’s health and safety, especially with COVID-19 cases being high in the county.

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.

Quinn offered a “huge thanks” to Coborn’s for donating pies and cooking 45 turkeys. “They deserve a huge shout out,” she said.

Bruce Gray was a first-time volunteer at the Thank Meal. “We’re fairly new to the community,” he said.

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Dacle Schmid volunteered on Thanksgiving Day to assemble hot meals. He wore a Community Thank Meal t-shirt that he estimated was 25 years old. "They got it for me. They said not everybody could wear pink," he said.

Bobby Wilkins and his wife and two boys were also new to the event. They offered to deliver meals. “We go to church here and it actually worked out in our schedule to do it,” he said.

Shelly Mahowald is a longtime volunteer. This marks her 25th year. She organizes the drivers and delivery routes.

“The mastermind at work,” Quinn said of Mahowald.

This Thanksgiving, drivers transported meals to the homebound in Nevis, Park Rapids, Osage and Menahga.

Nicole Kovar, a Minnesota DNR invasive species specialist, brought her family’s French exchange student, Antoine Durand. They helped prepare meals.

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Tim Wheeler, Shari Carlson, Jane Wheeler and Taylor Wheeler provide 25 Thanksgiving meals to sheriff's office staff on duty. From left, Casey Delacey and Duane Korfe accept. "It's much eappreciated," Korfe said. The Wheelers have volunteered for the Thank Meal in the past, driving to Nevis and Emmaville.

Quinn said the Thank Meal is “so rewarding. I do not deserve to be thanked. I cannot think of a better way to spend my day.”

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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