HERMISTON - Volunteers served up more than 800 dinners on Christmas Day for the latest installment of the Hermiston Community Fellowship Dinner. Served every Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is a work of love for volunteers.

One volunteer, Tom Marks, shared the story of preparing the meal with the EO.

Early in the morning when sensible people are just getting up or opening presents, the crews for the Community Fellowship Dinner in Hermiston are already at work. The basics of setting up tables and chairs, place settings and centerpieces were all done Friday afternoon, with a crew from the Wal-Mart Distribution Center setting up tables and another crew baking turkeys and scrubbing potatoes.

With the arrival of Christmas morning, activity goes into high gear. Lori Ball-Kiser, otherwise known to the volunteer crew as "the boss," is everywhere - instructing, cajoling, directing. Even before any volunteers get started, the phone begins to ring. The Community Dinner encourages people to attend if at all possible, but delivers meals to shut-ins. A phone call will have a turkey or ham dinner delivered at your home. Special needs, low salt diet or diabetic? Your dinner will be adjusted before the drivers receive it for delivery.

The turkey crew sets to work as jokes flow, knives flash and tales of past Community Dinner turkey carvings roam the table. Three generations of friends from three different families have been volunteering for years. The oldest is nearly blind and yet out-carves the youngsters two birds to one.

Spuds are halved, then dunked in a bowl of vegetable oil in preparation for baking. Debbie Imus has drawn the potato-dunking job and was heard to say that, for reasons unknown, her hands sure were mysteriously soft all of a sudden.

Other crews set up the hot line and got the fruit salad. The marshmallows for the salad have decided to stick together, but that's no problem. Willing hands take the big marshmallow lumps apart.

Volunteers continue to arrive as Lori flits about with a job for this one and another for that one. One volunteer makes coffee. Two join together to mix and fill the punch. A man is needed to stir the thick raisin sauce for the ham. A tall youngster from the turkey-carving crew is enlisted to put dishes on the top of the ovens to keep them warm.

Another volunteer draws the roll-warming job. No small task with the number of rolls that will be served. And, of course, the constant job of dishwashing goes on from the minute the turkey carvers empty the first time.

Inexorably, the clock moves. Ready or not, the time comes. Ham, turkey, baked potatoes and all the fixings are put on the hot line. Greeters are stationed at the door. Servers are assigned tables. The doors open.

This year the Thanksgiving Community Fellowship Dinner served 703 dinners with another 150 or so delivered. While the Christmas Dinner is usually a bit smaller, attendance was well in excess of 600 people.


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