Steamboat’s annual Thanksgiving dinner serves up caring, company and turkey of course | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat’s annual Thanksgiving dinner serves up caring, company and turkey of course

It is almost always a packed house at the Steamboat Springs Community Center for Routt County United Way's annual Community Thanksgiving dinner.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As people pull up a chair and sit down to feast on turkey, mashed potatoes and the other holiday fixings that make up a great Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, Steamboat Springs resident Mindy Williams will be rolling up her sleeves to wash dishes.

"I'm a dishwasher, and my husband (John) is a turkey carver," she said.

But before you start feeling sad for the Williamses, you need to know there is no place they would rather be on Thanksgiving than volunteering for Routt County United Way’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

"We see families that we know through school or soccer that come and celebrate together,” Mindy Williams said. “We see folks that we know who may not have permanent residence here in town, so it runs the gamut. I would have to say the people who are helping out are in the same boat. They are families and individuals who just want to be together on a special day and make a difference."

Since moving to Steamboat Springs in 2009, the Williams have made volunteering at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner an annual tradition. This year, the dinner will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. Thursday at the Steamboat Springs Community Center, 1605 Lincoln Ave.

Everybody is welcome to attend, and Go Alpine will provide free rides from anywhere within the Steamboat Springs city limits.

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"It draws a huge variety of people, and it is a true community dinner, " said Kate Nowak, executive director of Routt County United Way. "The holidays are tough for some folks. I think this is a place where people can go and feel like they a part of the community."

This year, Nowak said she has enough turkey donated to fill the plates but is still hoping to get some last minute donations of sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and maybe a couple of extra green bean casseroles. She said she has the 134 or 137 volunteers needed to make the dinner a success but could use a few extra hands to help clean dishes or bus tables between 3 and 4 p.m.

Last year, Routt County United Way served 841 meals and had enough food donated to send home extra plates of food with the later arrivals, mostly young adults who worked for Steamboat Ski Area.

Nowak said those who attend the dinner include tourists and locals, elderly people and young people who find themselves away from home for the first time. The group also includes people from Horizons Specialized Services, who not only want to eat but also volunteer their time.

She said many of the people simply don't have anywhere to go on Thanksgiving and are looking for that social connection. And of course, there are more than a few families who just don't have time to prepare a holiday feast between juggling several jobs.

"We have lived in some pretty big cities — London, Paris and San Francisco,” Williams said. “What drew us to Steamboat was the sense of community, and people helping each other out. This town truly cares about other people.

"If somebody needs something in this town, it is provided,” Williams continued. “I'm not a very religious person, but this is what I would call religion — people coming together providing each other with what we need, and this dinner says it all. It is this town's community spirit all wrapped into one event."

For Nowak, the event, which is sponsored by Mountain Valley Bank, marks the start of a busy holiday season.

In addition to the dinner, Routt County United Way supports several other programs to help those in the community who might be in need of holiday cheer.

On Friday, the organization begins a bell-ringing campaign where volunteers stand out in front of City Market and Safeway asking for donations to help the organization bring joy to those who otherwise might miss out.

That same day, the Young Professionals Network will be outside Walmart hoping to collect toys and grocery store gift cards for less fortunate families in Routt County. Those items will be distributed before Christmas through the Holiday Exchange program.

That program will also be supported by the Mitten Board program where people can select mittens at locations throughout the community, including the Clark Store, Hayden Mercantile, Select Super, Oak Creek Post Office, South Routt Elementary School, Yampa Valley Bank, Alpine Bank, Mountain Valley Bank, Bank of the San Juans, Bank of the West, Vectra Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, Yampa Valley Medical Center, Colorado Group Reality, Holy Name Church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Heart of Steamboat United Methodist Church and Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools.

Those claiming a mitten purchase items that will be handed out during the Holiday Exchange, where families are given tokens that allow them to pick out winter clothing for adults and children and toys to place under the tree on Christmas morning. The items on the mittens need to be returned by Dec. 13.

Nowak said families are selected for the program and are required to make a $10 donation or volunteer some time to the program in order to participate. 

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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