Community serves up Thanksgiving dinner

<p>Dylan Smith of Hermiston packs pies into containers for to-go orders while volunteering during the 2012 Community Fellowship Dinner in Hermiston.</p>

What started out as a Thanksgiving meal for 30 people in a Hermiston home has blossomed into a pair of traditional holiday meals for the entire community.

The initial gathering in 1988 offered people company, rather than spending the holiday alone. Based on the same premise, the 2012 Community Fellowship Dinner served 641 meals at Thanksgiving and 720 at Christmas.

Laurie Ball-Kiser, who initially got involved working in the kitchen, has coordinated the holiday dinners since 1990. A board of directors began in 1993.

“It brings me joy,” Ball-Kiser said. “I honestly can’t think of a Thanksgiving without it now.”

However, the Hermiston woman is quick to add that many people are instrumental in making the meals happen, including 300 volunteers and the individuals, churches and businesses who make food and financial donations.

“It becomes a part of their life, too,” Ball-Kiser said. “I think it’s a way of caring for other people.”

The Thanksgiving Day meal runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hermiston Senior Center, 435 W. Orchard Ave. In addition, food deliveries can be made and rides arranged for those needing transportation to the meal.

Ball-Kiser said financial donations and volunteers are still needed. People can help with food preparation, serving, waiting, greeting, meal delivery and clean-up. To volunteer, leave your name and number at 541-567-3013 or 541-567-8600. Those who haven’t received a call by Tuesday are invited to show up for the set-up party Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hermiston Senior Center.

If someone wants to volunteer — whether it be for an hour or all day — a job or task will be found, Ball-Kiser said.

The Community Fellowship Dinner also partners with other community organizations.

Leftover food is donated to Open Table (which offers a free meal to anyone who shows up), operated Mondays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hermiston First Christian Church. And turkey bones are given to dinner guests who can use them for soup or other cooking at home.

For meal delivery or a ride to the dinner, call 541-567-3013 through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. — on Thanksgiving Day, call 541-567-3582.

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Contact Community Editor Tammy Malgesini at tmalgesini@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4539.

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