From left, Diane Somers, Cindy Todd and Barbara Cooper smile for the camera during the Thanksgiving community potluck at College Heights Baptist Church in Soldotna, Alaska, on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

From left, Diane Somers, Cindy Todd and Barbara Cooper smile for the camera during the Thanksgiving community potluck at College Heights Baptist Church in Soldotna, Alaska, on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Church opens doors for community Thanksgiving

Many of the guests went around their tables and shared what they were thankful for this year.

The uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving has people taking stock every year of the things for which they are most grateful. It’s also a holiday centered around food, as family and friends gather together to share a meal, break bread and pass the stuffing.

For many Native Americans, the holiday is recognized as a Day of Mourning as they reflect on the suffering of their ancestors that coincided with the arrival of the original colonists.

For the members of the College Heights Baptist Church, this Thanksgiving was an opportunity to open the church doors and invite the community to a potluck dinner — a first according to Contessa Wolverton, who originally brought the idea to her fellow churchgoers.

“We usually donate food every year but this year we decided to do something a little different,” Wolverton said. “We’ve got a group of people here that are just really committed to serving their community.”

There were more than 50 people lined up for food or seated around tables in the church hall this Thanksgiving. Organizer Connie Combs said she was pleased with the turnout.

“I see a lot of our church family here, but there’s also quite a few new faces, which is always good to see,” Combs said.

The menu covered all the traditional bases: turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie for dessert. Also featured were a few unique items, including a pineapple and cheese casserole and a “harvest punch” made by church member Priscilla Tapangco, which was a cider made with Honeycrisp apples, cinnamon and ice cream.

Tapangco said that she and others jokingly referred to the community potluck as an “Orphan’s Thanksgiving.”

“There’s a lot of people around here that might have family living far away, so this is a good opportunity for those folks to come in and feel at home, even if they don’t know anyone,” Tapangco said. “I’m so thankful for this church and its community. I’ve never met so many people who care so deeply about serving others.”

Many of the guests went around their tables and shared what they were thankful for this year, including Carol Kvasnikoff, who also expressed her gratitude to the church for hosting the dinner.

“I’m thankful for the people and community God has placed in my life,” Kvasnikoff said. “This is a wonderful place to be, and doing things like this really brings people together.”

Three-year-old Allison Karron kept her list of things to be thankful for a little shorter: “Food and cookies!”

Cindy Todd also kept her answer concise: “I’m thankful for Trump.”

Jessica Siegersma and her daughters Elizabeth, Rebekah and Ally said they were thankful for their new puppy and for being able to spend the day with their church family.

“I’m also thankful that my grandparents are coming to visit for Christmas,” Elizabeth added.

“And I’m thankful for Pandora,” Rebekah said.

Billy Yoder gave a shoutout to those who aren’t able to celebrate Thanksgiving with their loved ones.

“Like most, I’m thankful for friends and family,” Yoder said. “But I’m also thankful for everyone serving overseas right now, and everyone that’s working today. It’s tough to have to be away from your family, and I hope they know they’re appreciated.”

From left, Jessica Siegersma, Ally Sigersma, Rebekah Seigersma, Elizabeth Siegersma and Josiah Huckaby smile for the camera during the Thanksgiving community potluck at College Heights Baptist Church in Soldotna, Alaska, on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

From left, Jessica Siegersma, Ally Sigersma, Rebekah Seigersma, Elizabeth Siegersma and Josiah Huckaby smile for the camera during the Thanksgiving community potluck at College Heights Baptist Church in Soldotna, Alaska, on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

From left, Connie Combs, Brent Takak, Andrea Combs, Don Combs, Finley Combs, Clint Hagel, Jennifer Hagel and Billy Yoder smile for the camera during the Thanksgiving community potluck at College Heights Baptist Church in Soldotna, Alaska, on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

From left, Connie Combs, Brent Takak, Andrea Combs, Don Combs, Finley Combs, Clint Hagel, Jennifer Hagel and Billy Yoder smile for the camera during the Thanksgiving community potluck at College Heights Baptist Church in Soldotna, Alaska, on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

More in News

Trees with fall colors populate the Shqui Tsatnu Creek gully as seen from Fourth Avenue on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai to use $770k in grants to remove hazard trees along Shqui Tsatnu Creek

The money will be used to mitigate hazards caused by dead and dying spruce trees over more than 100 acres of city land

Alaska state Rep. David Eastman, a Wasilla Republican, is shown seated on the House floor on April 29, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)
Alaska judge keeps Oath Keepers lawmaker on November ballot

Judge Jack McKenna on Thursday ordered elections officials to delay certifying the result of that particular race

An image purportedly from the computer screen of a digital media specialist for Gov. Mike Dunleavy shows numerous files and folders of campaign advertising. A complaint filed against the governor, plus other individuals and organizations, claims administrative staff is illegally doing paid campaign work on behalf of the governor. (Screenshot from complaint filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission)
Dunleavy faces more accusations in campaign complaint

Governor calls it “specious and unfounded.”

A recent photo of Anesha "Duffy" Murnane, missing since Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo provided, Homer Police Department)
A 2019 photo of Anesha “Duffy” Murnane, who went missing since Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer. (Photo provided, Homer Police Department)
Calderwood indicted for murder

Indictment charges man accused of killing Anesha “Duffy” Murnane with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault.

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20 of that year. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council gives Triumvirate more time to build theater

The Kenai City Council voted last summer to conditionally donate a 2-acre parcel of city land near Daubenspeck Park and the Kenai Walmart

Leaves fall at the Kenai Senior Center on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Senior Center makes plans for $715,000 endowment

The money comes from the Tamara Diane Cone Testamentary Trust

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
On Thursday morning at what police described as an active crime scene, JPD Officer Austin Thomas and Officer Taylor Davis walk the fielded area which was blocked off by crime scene tape. Multiple tents and a police vehicle sat in the field where the tape surrounded, another police vehicle sat in a dirt parking area.
No arrests made as Juneau death investigation continues

Shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday that a woman’s body was found

Damage from the remnants of typhoon Merbok can be seen in Golovin, Alaska, on Sept. 20, 2022. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has requested a federal disaster declaration for areas in western Alaska affected by the storm. (Photo by Jeremy Cubas/Office of the Governor)
Damage from the remnants of typhoon Merbok can be seen in Golovin, Alaska, on Sept. 20, 2022. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has requested a federal disaster declaration for areas in western Alaska affected by the storm. (Photo by Jeremy Cubas/Office of the Governor)
Repair work begins in some Alaska towns slammed by storm

About 21,000 people living along a 1,000-mile stretch of Alaska’s western coast were affected by the storm

Camille Broussard testifies in support of an advisory planning commission in Nikiski during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly approves advisory planning commission for Nikiski

The commission area as petitioned and approved covers just over 3.5 million acres

Most Read