Community Thanksgiving dinner fulfilling to many

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Feeding 375 people is a feat, but volunteers made it look easy at Thursday's Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Steamboat Springs Community Center, where people of all ages -- visitors and Routt County residents alike -- loaded up their plates with home-cooked Thanksgiving fare.

"I heard that community dinners are joyful occasions," Rose Caslar said about why she came to the free dinner, which was sponsored by the United Way of Routt County and Vectra Bank.

For three hours, people came in with empty stomachs and left fulfilled.

"It's my first Thanksgiving away from my family, and I wanted turkey," said Dominic Smith, who moved to Steamboat from Milwaukee just a few days ago.

The community dinner was a welcome alternative to spending the holiday alone and eating cereal, he said.

With as many as eight people at each round table, it was a good opportunity to meet new people.

Kim Swarts of Oak Creek kept Smith and others at his table laughing with periodic jokes.

"Everybody is friendly, and the food is good," Swarts said.

Earlier this week, United Way director Millie Beall worried there might not be enough food for the dinner, but the community overwhelmingly responded to her request for more dishes in a Steamboat Today story Monday, she said.

In addition to 20 turkeys, residents contributed more than 150 side dishes, including stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans and desserts -- not to mention beverages, cream, butter and cups.

Chefs from the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Food Services Department carved the turkeys and were among about 70 volunteers who greeted people and served and restocked food.

When there were enough volunteers, organizers had to turn away others who wanted to help out, Beall said.

"They rally around community events," she said. "It's the whole idea of Thanksgiving -- making sure people have a place to go for camaraderie."

Volunteer Pam Lindahl said it was nice to be on the helping end of an event that gathered people together and made them happy.

"We just wanted to give back to the community," said Lindahl, whose family was among those that had hoped to volunteer for the dinner.

Jill Downing came out to volunteer because her family is far away and she thought the event would be a nice opportunity to see people.

"Everybody gets a chance to come," she said. "There are no restrictions."

Rounding out the holiday ambiance was live entertainment provided by musicians, who took 30-minute shifts throughout the dinner.

"I love helping out the community," said 13-year-old Charlie Stoddard, who played the piano.

United Way and Vectra Bank have been partners in sponsoring the community dinner for two years. Beall hopes more sponsors may help out in the future.

"We would like more sponsors to kind of spread the load," she said.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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