Claire Cox, left, and her mom, Kathy, second from left, serve a Thanksgiving meal to Bruce Kleiman during the annual community dinner at the Holy Name Catholic Church in Steamboat Springs on Thursday afternoon.

Photo by Brian Ray

Claire Cox, left, and her mom, Kathy, second from left, serve a Thanksgiving meal to Bruce Kleiman during the annual community dinner at the Holy Name Catholic Church in Steamboat Springs on Thursday afternoon.

Community dinner relies on donations, volunteers to run smoothly

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— With one hour of prep time remaining before the official start to the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner, volunteer chef Roy Bruneel is making sure all his workers know just how to keep 30 donated turkeys warm.

In the kitchen at Holy Name Catholic Church, Bruneel is surrounded by birds in roasting pans, cans of cranberry sauce, boxes of stuffing, eight gallons of gravy, trays of mashed potatoes, bags of rolls and everything else that could be included in a holiday spread.

It was Bruneel's eighth year working to keep food for hundreds of community members warm on Thanksgiving Day, and he's made a science of his turkey timing.

"With the hot turkeys, we just make sure they're up to the proper temperatures," Bruneel said as he patted one of the gobblers. "At least 165 degrees for at least 15 seconds, and then it has to stay at 140 degrees."

Many of the people working in the kitchen cook for a living - including several who are ServSafe trained. Steve Gallup, a chef with Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., was on hand to carve turkeys for his sixth year.

All of the food is donated for the annual event, which is put on by Routt County United Way. Last year, about 425 people came to share in the community spirit.

With three more turkeys ready for carving this year than last, United Way Executive Director Mark Andersen - outfitted in an apron decorated for the holiday- said he expected an even larger crowd.

He said "at least a couple hundred people" dropped off food in the hour after United Way and its volunteers started accepting pre-made dishes Thursday.

"What is amazing is how much food and how generous everyone is in this community," said Diane Stoyko, who volunteers for and eats at the community dinner with her family every year.

"That's what's so charming about Steamboat," she said. "It really is amazing how it comes together in two hours - you know that people got up at 6 a.m. to cook the turkeys."

By 12:10 p.m., all the tables are set, there's a space cleared in the kitchen for carving and the first round of various desserts is out and cut. The buffet line is well-stocked with Thanksgiving trimmings.

It all works, said program assistant Charmaine Divens, because everyone has a job: there's one person on cranberry sauce duty, volunteers designated to keep the whipped topping coming for pie, plenty of people to make sure plates stay heaping and drinks stay full.

"We have a lot of new volunteers, but we also have a lot of volunteers that are vets," Divens said. "They just take over, and it runs smoothly."

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