Thanksgiving feast breaks record |

Thanksgiving feast breaks record

United Way’s community dinner has largest turnout

Jack Weinstein

— Before 4 p.m. Thursday, Routt County United Way volunteers ran out of plates at the annual Community Thanks­giving Dinner. They started with 500.

Executive Director Kelly Stanford had to make a trip to the United Way's office to pick up more.

After the community dinner ended at 5 p.m., Stanford estimated that 550 people were served this year before volunteers began sending people home with plates of leftovers. This year's turnout exceeds the 500 people served last year.

"It was essentially full all day long," Stanford said about the Steamboat Springs Community Center dining room. "All the tables were pretty much filled all day."

She said two tables had to be added early in the day, bringing the total to 12, to accommodate the steady stream of people. And they started serving at 12:30 p.m., Stanford said. The event had been scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

Those in attendance included community dinner veterans and first-timers. There were couples, whose grown children live elsewhere, families and locals just off the slopes.

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"I think it's great we live in a community that can afford to do this," said Tessa Hill, who spent the morning skiing with friends before coming to the community dinner, her first. "And everybody is allowed to come. It feels very comfortable."

Hill was joined by friends Ryan Lee and Joe Hample. Lee said it was his first community dinner and that it had been several years since Hample had attended. They both said one advantage was not having to cook. But there was more to it than that, they said.

"It's kind of like a family outside of a family," Lee said.

Many who attended the event shared that feeling of community.

Steamboat resident Victor Whittier said it was his fifth consecutive community dinner. He said he keeps coming back for the camaraderie.

"The people and the atmosphere here is unreal," he said.

Residents Gary and Georgian Kalow said they've been coming to the community dinner on and off for years now that their children are grown and have moved away.

"It's great the community comes together for this," Georgian Kalow said. "With no family in town this year, it's just kind of nice to be part of the community."

United Way members thought more people might attend the community dinner this year with increased demand reported by area health and human service agencies.

"There are people in our community who otherwise wouldn't have a traditional Thanks­­giving dinner," United Way board member Lynaia South Orr said. "But that's not the purpose. It truly is a communitywide event."

Stanford said the event wouldn't have been possible without the help of more than 100 volunteers.

Lynn Finkbohner said she's wanted to volunteer at the community dinner for a long time but that she didn't have the chance before this year.

"I'm excited to be here," she said. "It's a lot of fun. I'm glad I finally got the chance to volunteer here. It makes me feel really good. I feel incredible. I don't know why I waited so long to volunteer."

Dakota McBryar was one of about 20 volunteers from Christ 4 Life Sk8 Church. McBryar said he understood the importance of the dinner.

"I've been in the position before when I've been in need," he said. "I understand the situation with the economy the way it is. I wanted to help out and support the church. I feel good, getting to see smiles on kids' faces while they get to have Thanksgiving dinner with their families."

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