Eagles Lodge feeds the spirit of community | PostIndependent.com

Eagles Lodge feeds the spirit of community

Dale Shrull
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

Danny Gonzalez once delivered a cat instead of a Thanksgiving dinner.

The 68-year-old roars with laughter as he recounts a harrowing tale of a Thanksgiving that nearly went horribly wrong.

A woman helping with the Eagles Lodge dinner brought her cat with her one Thanksgiving morning.

Well, Danny grabbed the wrong box and delivered the cat instead of Thanksgiving dinner.

Must have been a quiet cat.

“Boy, it didn’t take too long for me to run back over there and get the cat,” he says laughing. “I don’t know what those ladies must have thought.”

Danny has assembled lots of Thanksgiving memories over the years.

Twenty-four years ago, along with a fellow Eagles Lodge member, Danny started the annual free Thanksgiving dinner.

It just seemed like the right thing to do. Help out people, Danny says, standing in the Eagles Lodge kitchen.

“We just did it for the people who didn’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving,” he says.

And they’re still doing it today. Close to 300 people will sit down for a massive feast of turkey, stuffing, potatoes ” you name it and Danny and his crew will serve it up.

They even package up full dinners for the people who can’t make it down to the Eagles Lodge on Sixth Street.

And there’s only been the one cat mishap over the years.

Danny is an unassuming guy who prefers to avoid the spotlight, and is quick to point at everyone else for the event’s success.

‘We’re all volunteers. None of us take a penny,” Danny says, as Morris “Bones” Andreatta agrees with a nod.

Slicing tomatoes, Bones agrees with everything Danny says. Bones is a newcomer to the tradition, this being his second year.

Morris was 5 years old when the tradition began, and now he’s the cook for the big dinner.

In the first year, they had one turkey. Today, they will serve 16.

After 24 years, Danny smiles when he says it’s become a smooth operation.

“We’ve got people taking care of the salads and people getting the drinks ready,” he says. “Everybody is helping.”

That’s a big theme for Danny and the Thanksgiving dinner.

Everybody helps, everybody eats.

“We’ve got a lot of volunteers. Everybody pitches in.”

Danny names off some of the helpers like the Ladies Auxiliary, which supplies the pies, the Daily Bread, where Bones works, the Maple Table … the list is as long as the menu.

“All I gotta do is ask and people will help. But I don’t even have to ask those girls (at the Ladies Auxiliary), they just bring me pies every year,” he says with a smile.

An Eagles member dropped off a donated turkey as Danny was talking.

As a 40-year member of the Eagles Lodge, it’s all about family for Danny and his army of helpers ” the Eagles family providing dinner to the community.

Along with the 16 turkeys, there will be 100 pounds of potatoes, and yams, salads, gallons of gravy, piles of pies ” it’s a massive undertaking.

The only thing missing from this job is the complaining. You won’t hear a pinch of whining from this bunch.

The reason is simple. It’s Thanksgiving and it’s time to give a little back to the community.

“It’s very satisfying,” Danny says. “A thank-you is better than a dollar.”

He chuckles.

Danny pauses as he thanks a former helper and Eagles Lodge member, Jeff Harris, who recently passed away.

There’s also plenty of help from the Gonzalez family ” Danny’s brothers, Johnny, Richard and Freddy volunteer, too.

Danny is the oldest but he doesn’t have to put the pressure on his brothers. They’re always ready to step up and pitch in.

For Bones, a painter, who works for the Gonzalez family business, and a cook at the Daily Bread, the Thanksgiving dinner is as rewarding as a fat paycheck.

“Last year I just fell in love with it. To help people and see them full and happy is real special,” he says.

For a cook, tucked away, back in the kitchen, the thank-yous are like gold.

“A lot of people come back and say thank you. For a cook that means a lot. You don’t hear that very much,” he says.

Bones says prep is everything to pulling off a community dinner. He took off around 9 last night, grabbed a couple hours sleep and was back inside the apron around 2 a.m. The two ovens cooked 3 to 4 turkeys in about four hours.

Danny showed up around 7 a.m. He’s the guy who keeps everything running smoothly but he once again serves up praise to everyone else for making it happen.

He makes sure that everyone who sits down gets a friendly hello.

“We try and make ’em feel good. We tell ’em thanks for coming and they do say thanks, too. The thanks, that’s what makes you feel good,” he says with an affirming nod.

At 5 p.m., the final wave of volunteers will arrive to do the clean up.

Danny laughs when asked when he usually eats his dinner. “I don’t know. Leftovers are the best, though, we all know that.”

He laughs again.

Thanksgiving is always special at the Eagles Lodge.

Good food prepared by good people and served to good people ” Thanksgiving at the Eagles Lodge is a great tradition.

Like any family gathering, Danny says the more the better. “Everybody’s welcome.”

Everybody, except maybe a cat.

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