Paul Klaben, a driver at the Kenai Senior Center, helps prepare Thanksgiving to-go meals at the center on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. Volunteer Cheryl Hamann bags the meals in the background. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Paul Klaben, a driver at the Kenai Senior Center, helps prepare Thanksgiving to-go meals at the center on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. Volunteer Cheryl Hamann bags the meals in the background. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

‘It’s a wonderful thing’

Kenai Senior Center prepares Thanksgiving to-go for peninsula seniors.

Brown paper bags lined tables at the Kenai Senior Center on Tuesday as volunteers and employees filled them with Thanksgiving dinners.

Kathy Romain, the executive director of the center, said due to COVID-19 they opted for a takeout meal out of an abundance of caution rather than having seniors dine in this holiday.

“We didn’t want to do 200 people here,” she said. “This age group is more susceptible.”

Hilcorp Alaska donated $2,500 to make the holiday dinner happen, Romain said, which made around 300 individual meals.

“For many, this is their Thanksgiving dinner,” Romain said.

Kitchen volunteers and staff came in between 4 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to prepare the meal, which was then bagged in an assembly-line style later in the morning. One senior even enlisted her four great-grandchildren to help pack and distribute meals.

Missy Bailey, who has been cooking at the Kenai Senior Center for about 20 years now, said the Thanksgiving meal was quite the process.

“Sunday was the stuffing day. Monday was opening all the cans of green beans and putting in … 16 turkeys. We baked pies yesterday,” Bailey said.

On Tuesday morning she made the mashed potatoes, and had help with the cranberry relish salad and Jell-O.

Bailey said everything ran smoothly, and gave special recognition to the volunteers.

“It’s a wonderful thing; I couldn’t do it (alone),” she said.

Cheryl Hamann, one of the volunteers bagging meals on Tuesday, said she was glad to be able to serve the seniors even under the circumstances.

“As you get older … you lose your loved ones and life gets in the way sometimes,” she said. “And to be able to have a Thanksgiving meal and to be able to enjoy it and have that camaraderie is very important.”

Visiting her mom’s senior facility in Michigan has given Hamann a new perspective on how the elderly live.

“I would go home every year to spend time with her, and I realized … family, Thanksgiving meals (and) friends are important to seniors,” she said. “And you don’t think about that … when you’re my age.”

An inviting environment for the community’s seniors, Hamann said, makes a real difference.

“We’ll go out of our way to make them feel comfortable here and provide different things for them to do, especially in the wintertime,” she said.

Senior centers on the central peninsula have reported their members have felt especially isolated during the pandemic.

The Kenai center has been preparing takeout meals for most of the pandemic, and even has been able to deliver food straight to members’ doorsteps.

Hamann has been involved at the center since August, and said she’s enjoyed getting to know the seniors who frequent the facility.

“They love to talk and visit and share,” she said. “You take life for granted sometimes and we forget, especially with everything that’s gone on the past couple years, to be thankful for what we have.”

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

To-go Thanksgiving meals are distributed at the Kenai Senior Center on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

To-go Thanksgiving meals are distributed at the Kenai Senior Center on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Senior Center volunteer Carol Freas, left, and driver Don Erwin prepare to-go Thanksgiving meals at the center on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Senior Center volunteer Carol Freas, left, and driver Don Erwin prepare to-go Thanksgiving meals at the center on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

More in News

EPA logo
Alaska Native group to receive EPA funds for clean water projects

The agency is handing out $4.3 million to participating tribal organizations nationwide.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State reports 6 new COVID deaths

The deaths, which included a Kenai woman in her 40s, pushed the total to 840 since the pandemic began.

Ryanna Thurman (right) speaks to a library employee at the Soldotna Public Library on Thursday, March 25 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna library seeks OK for grant fund purchases

The funds are made available under the federal American Rescue Plan Act

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Kenai man killed in vehicle rollover

The man was travelling northbound on the Sterling Highway on Tuesday.

Cheryl Morse and Tom Kleeman prepare Thanksgiving lunch at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Food bank opens doors for Thanksgiving lunch

“We don’t know what to expect, so we’re trying to still be cautious on our limited seating.”

Carter Kyle (left), Lincoln Kyle (center) and Brandon Kyle (right) hand off Thanksgiving meals at a drive through event hosted by the Salvation Army on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Thanksgiving on the go

Salvation Army hands out meals in drive-thru event

Bench creator, Brad Hughes, pours the molding material over the clay while Rob Wiard and Matt brush the liquid rubber over each character on the bench to ensure it is covered evenly. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Molds for the Loved Lost Bench are underway

Construction for the memorial bench continues as the rubber molds to shape the concrete are made.

Alaska Rep. David Eastman sits at his desk on the Alaska House floor in Juneau, Alaska, on March 5, 2020. Dozens of West Point graduates have demanded state Rep. Eastman resign from office over his ties to a right wing extremist group, saying his affiliation has betrayed the values of the U.S. Military Academy he attended. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)
70 West Point grads call on Alaska lawmaker to resign

Fellow West Point graduates called on Eastman to resign after his membership in the Oath Keepers became public.

Most Read