Americans traditionally observe Thanksgiving with the four Fs: family, friends, food and football.
What better way to celebrate than by joining loved ones around a dining table covered with a turkey roasted to perfection and stuffed with a savory mixture, heaping bowls of mashed potatoes with gravy to be poured on top, cranberry stuffing to add color and generous slices of pumpkin pie and whipped cream? Depending on preferences, a green bean casserole might be added. Maybe a fruit salad. Perhaps a basket of hot-from-the-oven rolls.
And how better to let food digest than by sitting back and watching football teams battle it out on the field? Commercial breaks offer just enough time to sneak back to the table and get another bite of this and that.
Tough times make it impossible for some to have that kind of holiday. For some, the reason is lack of a job or one that barely pays enough to make ends meet, much less splurge on an elaborate meal. For others, it’s poor health and the challenges that poses. Some don’t have family or their family lives hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Up and down the Kenai Peninsula, community members are joining together to fill the gap those circumstances create. Through dinners being prepared, potlucks and baskets of food, the hand of care is being extended, making sure no one is without.
• Thanksgiving food baskets
Organized by the Kachemak Bay Lions
Application deadline was Nov. 20
Distribution of baskets:
1-2 p.m. Saturday
How to help: Donate turkeys and other food items; make a cash donation to Kachemak Bay Lions, P.O. Box 1824, Homer, AK 99603; help assemble the food baskets beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Homer United Methodist Church.
For information: 235-8761
As they have for years, the Kachemak Bay Lions are preparing Thanksgiving baskets for distribution Saturday afternoon. Working with Fran Van Sandt, Amy Shumaker said there is still time to donate food items for the baskets or provide financial support.
“We need turkeys,” said Shumaker, referring specifically to turkeys for families of two, three or four members.
Turkeys aren’t the only items going into the baskets, however.
“On my gosh, there are onions, potatoes, canned vegetables, canned fruit, fresh fruit, Jell-o, canned yams and sweet potatoes, pumpkin for pies, sugar, flour, eggs, celery, pie crust, bread and rolls, butter, stuffing and canned condensed milk,” said Shumaker. “And then any of the extras that people donate, we’ll fill boxes up for bigger families and for smaller families depending on the number of kids.”
The process to assemble the baskets moves quickly and is well organized from years of helping give community members a holiday boost. Last year’s effort cost $6,500 and Shumaker anticipates this year it will run $7,000-$8,000.
“Last year we made 165 baskets and fed more than 525 people,” said Shumaker. “We expect it to be bigger this year, and we never turn people away.”
• Salvation Army
12:30-2 p.m., Nov. 24.
With Thanksgiving and Christmas in mind, Lt. Jeff Josephson of the Salvation Army said community meals for both holidays are being planned. The Christmas meal will be 12:30-2 p.m. Dec. 22.
• Flex School
Thanksgiving feast for the students
11:30 a.m. Nov. 27
It’s one big family at Flex School. In spite of a full day of classes, the staff, faculty and 35 students of Homer’s alternative high school celebrate Thanksgiving with their own tradition: preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal they enjoy together on Wednesday.
• Thanksgiving food baskets
Organized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10221
Distribution of baskets: 1-2 p.m. Saturday
How to help: Donate turkeys and other food items at the VFW or the Anchor Point Senior Center, both located on Milo Fritz Road, or at Chapman School, on the Sterling Highway.
Basket distribution: Nov. 25
For information: 235-5582
“The baskets are for any family or veteran in need,” said VFW Jennifer Henley, spokesperson.
Donations of “everything and anything” are appreciated. Whatever is left over is used in baskets made during the Christmas holiday.
“We have anywhere from 35-45 baskets,” said Henley of single individuals, couples and families as large as eight that need a little help.
The baskets are assembled Nov. 24, with the recipients notified when the food can be picked up.
“If they have a hard time coming to get the baskets, we’ll either deliver them or help make arrangements,” said Henley.
Debbie Carpenter at Anchor Point Senior Center said the food is starting to stack up.
“We get 30 turkeys to provide them and other people come in and make donations of canned food and dry products,” said Carpenter. “And there’s no deadline. Whatever’s there, we give for Thanksgiving and then continue to collect for baskets that go out in December.”
Chapman School’s student council turns the effort into a competition, with prizes given for the most food items donated. A school-wide movie is being shown Nov. 26 for all eligible students who brought food before Nov. 22.
• Thanksgiving dinner
Organized by the VFW
3 p.m. Nov. 28
Where: VFW, Milo Fritz Road
“We invite everyone to come,” said Henley. “If you’d like to bring a dish, that’s wonderful; if you can’t, that’s just fine. “Come for some really great food and great conversation. It’s just a nice gathering.”
• Pre-Thanksgiving potluck
Organized by the Ninilchik Senior Center and the community
5-8 p.m. Nov. 23
Where: Ninilchik Senior Center
For information: 907-567-3988
Ninilchik residents can make their favorite recipe and join with other community members for a pre-Thanksgiving, alcohol-free celebration at the Ninilchik Senior Center on Sunday. Plates and cutlery are provided by the senior center.
When to comes to football, Thanksgiving games have been a tradition since six were played on Nov. 25, 1920. According to history provided by the NFL, no less than two games have been played each year since then. Last year saw the Houston Texans beating the Detroit Lions 45-24, the Washington Redskins finishing with a seven-point lead ahead of the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots walloping the New York Jets 49-19.
This year the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions start the action at 12:30 p.m. on Fox, followed by the Oakland Raider vs. the Dallas Cowboys at 4:30 p.m. on CBS and the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Baltimore Ravens at 8:30 p.m. on NBC. Keep in mind those are East Coast times.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.