BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – There’s still time left to request a delivery for a free Thanksgiving dinner as part of the annual Fort Madison Community Thanksgiving dinner.
The free dinner takes place on Thanksgiving from 11:30 to 2 p.m. at the Fort Madison High School Community Multi-Purpose Room. Requests for delivery can be made by calling the hotline at 319-371-1277 until Wednesday at 5 p.m.
The event is made possible by a group of volunteers who serve on a committee that organize the meal. It’s also made possible through the generous donations of community members, businesses, and other enterprises.
Those contributing to the dinner this year include Verla Cassady, Thomas Glasgow, American Legion Auxiliary 668, Huffman Welding & Machine, Pilot Grove Savings Bank, Connection Bank, Dupont, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Pinnacle, Nico Pothitakis, Silgan Containers, FM Elks Lodge, Fort Madison High School, Fort Madison Middle School, Holy Trinity Catholic Schools, Fort Madison Community Hospital, Fort Madison KFC, Fareway, Hy-Vee, and Iowa State Penitentiary.
This year’s committee consisted of Gerri Barnett, Dianne Hope, Carol Arnold, Debi Daughters, Bobbi Marshall, Joanne Varley, Robin Delaney, Craig Wills, Savanna Collier, and Holy Trinity Catholic junior Samantha Pothitakis.
Collier, the Fort Madison Chamber of Commerce coordinator, said the committee changed the times a little bit for this year’s event to allow deliveries to get out quicker. Meal deliveries will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.
She said volunteers are still needed to help prep the meals, which this year could surpass 1,000.
“We’re not going to turn any volunteers away,” she said. “I think we still need people on Wednesday and Thursday and we definitely need pies, bars, or other desserts that we can package up.”
Those wishing to donate desserts can do so by bringing the pies to the school on Wednesday or Thursday morning as long as they are pre-baked and don’t need to be refrigerated.
Collier said the dinner takes a lot of man hours to produce, but the event is starting to take on a life of its own, making planning easier each year.
“This is a very community-minded event from the preparation and planning to the meal. We work very closely with Fareway and Hy-Vee to get stuff ordered in a timely fashion. Hy-Vee also delivers so we don’t have to worry about transporting it from the store.”
She said this year many of the dry goods were ordered through the school so the committee could do some bulk purchasing and then take advantage of delivery of those products, as well.
“It’s getting smoother and smoother and we learn from previous years and figure out what works and what doesn’t.”
The number of meals served and delivered continues to climb each year. Last year more than 900 meals were served with just about half being delivered. The other half was a mix of residents dining in and carrying out meals.
This year the Iowa State Penitentiary, in addition to providing cookies for desserts, will also be cooking the vegetables for the stuffing, which will save kitchen prep time on Wednesday.
Collier said the number of high school students volunteering to help with the event has increased yearly, as well.
“We did see an influx of students helping us this year. With the new graduation requirements at the high school, we had more students on the volunteer list, which is pretty cool.”
She said volunteers will be packaging up leftovers and saving the remaining meat and bones from the turkey to be used for a community soup supper that is being planned for January, but the details on that are still in the works.