Compassion served up by the plateful
The word “give” sits right in the middle of the word “Thanksgiving.” And for many people in the Glenwood Springs area, Thursday’s holiday was a lot more about giving than anything else.
For the 16th year, the Glenwood Springs Eagles continued their tradition of offering up free Thanksgiving meals to “absolutely anyone,” according to Eagle member Jeff Harris. The Eagles Hall on Seventh Street was bustling with Eagle members, community volunteers and lots of satiated people all day Thursday.
Across the river, the Dairy Kreme was hosting its own free Thanksgiving feed. Like the Eagles, owner Hyun Park, his sister Shana Engel and brother-in-law Tom Engel put together a free feast for anybody who needed a holiday dinner.
Last Saturday, the New Castle and Silt Lions clubs sponsored a free community Thanksgiving feast, and last week, LIFT-UP coordinated its Thanksgiving giveaway food box program.
These are just some examples of how some community members choose to spend Thanksgiving Day.
“People walk in off the street on Thanksgiving Day, and want to lend us a hand,” said Harris at the Eagles, who’s been a part of the dinner since former Eagles president Danny Gonzalez asked him to volunteer for the first free feed in 1986.
A community service
Harris said the Eagles annual Thanksgiving dinner started because the owner of the former Rex Hotel, located down the block from the Eagles, wanted a place to serve Thanksgiving dinner for single people.
From there, the dinner took off.
“We started getting a lot of husbands and wives whose grown kids had moved away,” Harris said. “They had no reason to make a big meal, so they’d come here.”
Harris said the Eagles serve about 300 dinners during Thanksgiving Day, and fixings cost the organization about $700.
The Eagles not only rely on members and community volunteers to help cook, serve and host the dinner. They also get help from a group of men in orange.
“The Garfield County Jail has a work release program for community service,” said Harris. “Since we’re a charitable organization, these guys give us a hand.”
Seven Garfield County inmates were busy cooking, cleaning up and bussing tables at the Eagles feed.
“These guys are great,” said Harris. “They jump right in and help us out. Plus, being here beats the heck out of sitting in jail on Thanksgiving.”
Throughout Eagles Hall on Thursday, the mood was low-key and family-oriented. A group of women talking and laughing stood behind a banquet table serving traditional Thanksgiving grub. A group of young men played Foosball in one corner, while a family played a game of pool. The Patriots-Lions game was on the big-screen TVs overhead.
At the long dining tables, a group of people from New Zealand were talking and eating turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. They had just pulled into Glenwood Springs on the train, and had walked across the street from the train station to the Eagles to experience their first Thanksgiving dinner.
Besides the diners on-site, the Eagles also take meals to shut-ins during Thanksgiving Day.
“We’ll keep doing this,” said Harris, cutting up another turkey. “This is a tradition.”
The first annual
Dairy Kreme owner Hyun Park got the idea for starting his own tradition while looking out his restaurant window on Sixth Street in Glenwood Springs. Park is originally from Korea. He moved to the United States in 1984 and bought the Dairy Kreme in Glenwood Springs this past September after living in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Denver.
“My brother could see people outside at the bus stop,” said Park’s sister Shana Engel. Park speaks English but Engel is more fluent and answered questions for her brother as he stood nearby. “He could see that not everybody could afford to come into his restaurant and have hot coffee and a hot meal.”
Engel and her husband Tom own Sioux Villa Curio next door to Dairy Kreme as well as the Glenwood Springs Trading Post downtown. Park told his sister and brother-in-law about wanting to offer a meal to people who couldn’t afford one. The Engels, members of the Midvalley Baptist Church near Carbondale, loved the idea and offered to help. From there, the idea took off.
“We told our pastor about the idea and the church wanted to get involved,” Shana said. “That’s when we decided to offer free meals for everyone on Thanksgiving Day.”
“We’re going to make this an annual event,” said Tom. “This is our first annual.”
Help came from everywhere. The Glenwood Amoco next door to Dairy Kreme pitched in to buy turkeys. Church member Michelle Hammond, who runs the Basalt Middle School lunch program, offered to cook all the meals. The Flower Mart offered to provide centerpieces for the table. Silverware came from Wal-Mart. Innermountain Distributing gave napkins and dinnerware. Digitech provided a big banner announcing the feed. True Brew gave 20 gallons of coffee, and church members offered to deliver meals to shut-ins and seniors.
“We hope to serve over 400 meals and deliver over 100 meals,” said Tom.
The Dairy Kreme was dressed up in its holiday best on Thursday. A long center table had been added to the dining room to allow for up to 50 people at one time. A big blow-up Santa waved people into the restaurant, and Digitech’s big orange banner welcomed people to the Thanksgiving feed.
Even still, at least one customer walked in the front door and tried to order some of Hyun’s special teriyaki chicken. He didn’t get to purchase Hyun’s specialty, but he was treated to a free Thanksgiving meal.
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