Mark Hutton and Dave Peterson carve numerous turkeys for the Salvation Army community dinner.

Mark Hutton and Dave Peterson carve numerous turkeys for the Salvation Army community dinner.

Community helps Salvation Army with turkey dinner

It was a great Thanksgiving holiday on the Kenai Peninsula with efforts community wide to make sure that everyone shared in the many blessings we have to be thankful for.

One traditional event that has been ongoing for decades at the Salvation Army in Kenai is the free Thanksgiving dinner that is open to anyone without a place to go.

“It’s not only an event for the community, but by the community,” said Envoy Craig Fanning in an interview with the Dispatch.

“I can’t tell you the broad based effort that goes into making this dinner happen. The three Rotary Clubs here in the Central Peninsula are an unbelievable help for us. The Kenai Rotary buys all the turkeys and Soldotna and Kenai River Rotary turn out with their families to cook and prepare the dinner and get it all set out ready to serve. Dozens of other volunteers throughout the day come to serve the meal and clean up afterward and the students at Cook Inlet Academy came over the day before and do the prep work of peeling the potatoes and carrots and those kids are just wonderful and will be here helping us get our Christmas baskets ready as well,” said Fanning.

According to Fanning the free Thanksgiving dinner isn’t just for folks going through hard times but is as much for those whose are alone with families out of state or working

“We’ve had folks come that really are in need of a meal for Thanksgiving Day, but we also have a lot of folks that may have been alone otherwise and come to visit and have a great time of fellowship and at this time of year we are glad to meet that need as well. We’ve been doing this dinner for forty-some years now and it’s one our favorite events,” he said.

The Thanksgiving weekend also commences the traditional Salvation Army Kettle drive and the ringing of the bells that funds Salvation Army services year round.

“The kettles really are very important to us financially and pays for the three to four hundred baskets we’ll distribute at Christmas time. The baskets include toys, clothing and food items and we’ll spend almost $40 to $50,000 dollars during Thanksgiving and Christmas time to take care of the needs of people in our community. We have a lot of volunteers that step to stand at the kettle that really helps make that effort very successful and of course all the funds are used here locally,” Fanning said.

“The Brown Bears hockey team for the first time this year will be standing a day for us at Fred Myers, the Catholic Church and of course the Rotary Club competition each year makes a big difference. We also will be partnering again this year with the Toys for Tots program and the U.S. Marines, that is a major source of toys for our Christmas baskets that are distributed locally and we are very grateful for again the community effort that is put out for that program to be sure everyone has a happy Holiday experience here.”

Jerry Near and the Dolifika family put together the trimmings.

Jerry Near and the Dolifika family put together the trimmings.

6-year-old Elodie and 4-year-old Behati Frisk some up the perfect Thanksgiving message.

6-year-old Elodie and 4-year-old Behati Frisk some up the perfect Thanksgiving message.

Families work together to be sure everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving dinner.

Families work together to be sure everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving dinner.

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