Volunteers make sure everyone has a Thanksgiving dinner

Greg Masse
Post Independent Staff
Post Independent Photo/Jim Noelker

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Like assembly-line workers churning out turkey dinners, volunteers at the Eagles Lodge made sure the hungry were fed on Thanksgiving.

For the past 25 years or so, members of the lodge have invited one and all to come enjoy a turkey feast that rivals Grandma’s house.

“We’re expecting 200 to 250 people,” the event’s co-founder Danny Gonzales said as volunteers shuffled in and out of the kitchen. “And we have a take-out service for people who can’t come down here.”

He also said homeless people, or just anyone with nowhere to go on Thanksgiving, were welcome to come share in the feast.

“It’s for anybody. We’ve got the doors open for the manors and the old folks. Homeless, no family, can’t afford it, I don’t care if they’re millionaires and they just want to spend time here for Thanksgiving,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales came up with the idea of feeding those in need of a meal on Thanksgiving with his friend and fellow Eagle Jeff Harris. Harris passed away in February, so this year’s feast is the first to go on without him.

And while Harris’ spirit was no doubt present, so were his father and stepmom, Joe and Koy Harris. The couple drove about 500 miles from Howell, Utah, to volunteer at the turkey feed.

“We come once in a while. We came this year because it’s the first year after his dath,” Joe Harris said of his son, Jeff.

Providing the masses with food for Turkey Day is no easy job. Around 40 volunteers helped cook 20 turkeys, stacks of stuffing, gallons of gravy, vats of mashed potatoes, pots of sweet potatoes, sheets of dinner rolls, bogs of cranberry sauce, and crates of corn.

“Me and one of the guys came in at 3 a.m.,” said Donna Matthews, who ran the Eagles’ kitchen on Thursday, said of herself and Ron Chase. “The others started coming in at 7 or 8.”

Matthews also slaved over a hot oven cooking 12 pumpkin pies on Wednesday.

“I told everyone yesterday that I get to sleep Thursday night,” she quipped.

“You’ve got the system down, huh?” one volunteer yelled to another, who was scooping potatoes and gravy into a Styrofoam to-go container.

“Yeah, the system!” she yelled back, smiling.

Larry Willert of Carbondale read the paper as he awaited his meal shortly after 11 a.m.

“I know Danny, and I know the Gonzaleses,” he said. “I just came in to eat. They always serve a good meal. They put a lot of effort into this every year.”

Across the Grand Avenue Bridge, another free turkey dinner was under way at Dairy Creme.

Although the thrust of the Dairy Creme operation was aimed at delivering meals to those who couldn’t go out, most of the restaurant’s seats were full of walk-in customers.

Joseph Goodman, also of Carbondale, brought a bunch of volunteers from A Spiritual Center church in Carbondale.

“We had about 10 people from our church group volunteering,” he said.

“We started at 7 a.m. One of our people manages the kitchen at Basalt Middle School,” said Vicki Kennedy, who lives in Glenwood Springs and is a member of the Mid-Valley Church. Kennedy organized Thursday’s turkey dinner.

Most of the meals were cooked at the middle school kitchen, but the rolls were baked in Dairy Creme’s kitchen. In all, the volunteers were in the process of delivering about 180 meals, Kennedy said.

Judi Fitzsimmons of Cattle Creek was another volunteer from the Mid-Valley Church. For her, Thursday’s work was a family affair. She was joined by her grown-up children and even grandchildren at Dairy Creme.

“This is my first year doing this,” she said.

One of those grandchildren, 11-year-old Rachael Gillespie, was one of the handful of kids volunteering their time to help out.

“I’ve been doing the cranberry sauce,” she said. “Also, I’ve been getting all the plates ready, and that’s about it.”

Thirteen-year-old Nicholas Walgren of Carbondale was the jack-of-all-trades Thursday.

“I’m doing pretty much everything,” he said.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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