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Community Thanksgiving dinner brings family, friends together

Volunteers arrive at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving to get to work.

Standing on a chair, organizer Terry Morrison greets the crowd at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, at First Lutheran Church in Worthington.
Standing on a chair, organizer Terry Morrison greets the crowd at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, at First Lutheran Church in Worthington.
Kari Lucin / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — Tender turkey, fluffy mashed potatoes and savory stuffing were all on the menu at Thursday’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner at First Lutheran Church in Worthington, but the true focus of the feast, as always, was family and friends spending time together.

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“This is it for us — this is Thanksgiving,” said Jada Walker, of Arvada, Colorado, whose father, Terry Morrison, has been organizing the event for more than a decade. “We’re really happy to be able to gather again.”

The Community Thanksgiving Dinner had a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Morrison started volunteering at the dinner around 35 years ago, and after the previous organizers left, he and his wife, Elaine, were asked to take charge. Since then, she has died, but Morrison has continued the good work, bringing about 20 volunteers together annually to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner — from scratch — for almost 200 people. The meal is entirely paid for through donations.

It’s a herculean task, but Morrison and his crew have plenty of practice, and Morrison has developed organizational techniques that help make the meal go more smoothly, Jada said.

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“Dad has all the recipes typed up, and he does a journal after every event,” she explained, including the positives and the negatives each year.

There’s a lot to be done, as the menu includes squash, green bean casserole, olives, pie and coffee too, and the volunteers arrive at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving to get to work.

Volunteers get ready to dish out a turkey feast at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, at First Lutheran Church in Worthington.
Volunteers get ready to dish out a turkey feast at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, at First Lutheran Church in Worthington.
Kari Lucin / The Globe

This year, Morrison got 10 turkeys from W-2’s Quality Meats — “the biggest ones we could get,” Jada said — and the group ended up peeling and mashing around 80 pounds of potatoes. They made two giant roaster pans of stuffing and two of green bean casserole, too.

Those at the meal were an eclectic mix of people, from older people opting out of cooking a giant meal to those without family in the area to those attending the meal as a family.

Others have their own reasons to join the fun, like Robert Baerenwald, of Pipestone, who stopped by for Thanksgiving dinner before visiting his aunt, Margaret Kienast.

“I wanted to see if I can see any people I know,” said Baerenwald, who used to work at Worthington’s ShopKo.

Guests at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner dip into the relish trays, filled with pickles, olives and cranberry sauce on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, at First Lutheran Church in Worthington.
Guests at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner dip into the relish trays, filled with pickles, olives and cranberry sauce on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, at First Lutheran Church in Worthington.
Kari Lucin / The Globe

A family Thanksgiving

“It’s nice to give something to people out of kindness and nothing else,” said Egan Makay Walker, Jada’s son.

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“There’s this buzz of generosity you get,” Jada agreed. “It’s kind of neat to be able to do something together that’s big. Everything’s in big quantities here!”

Egan said he enjoyed seeing how many people show up for the event each year, especially since many of them were familiar friends who came back year after year.

“It’s really about helping the community,” said Harper Morrison, another of Terry’s grandchildren, who now lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“We’ve been doing it all our lives. It’s our favorite tradition,” said Emma Walker, Terry’s granddaughter.

“When we started, my kids were really little,” Morrison said. “To them, this is Thanksgiving.”

Volunteer Michael Vosburgh, still wearing his apron, takes a break to catch a bite after the crowd has been served at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, at First Lutheran Church in Worthington.
Volunteer Michael Vosburgh, still wearing his apron, takes a break to catch a bite after the crowd has been served at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, at First Lutheran Church in Worthington.
Kari Lucin / The Globe

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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