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Giving thanks, sharing fellowship

One very bright holiday light that continues to shine is the annual Thanksgiving meal served Thursday at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, 201 5th Ave. W.

For more than 30 years, the church has been issuing an open invitation to anyone wishing to share in a hot, delicious meal paired with ample fellowship and unlimited conversation.

This year will offer the same, as volunteers gather to place the finishing touches on the traditional dinner that will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the dining hall, featuring turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, corn, cranberries, as well as several desserts, including plenty of pumpkin pie and specialty cakes.

Among the planning crew, parishioner Steve Perrault is one of the longest serving, with over 25 years to his credit. Parish Life Coordinator Karen Beets has been overseeing the event for about the past six years. Other regulars include: Alice Marx Kuehn, who handles the promotion along with playing a significant role in the kitchen on Wednesday and Thursday as the meal is prepared and served; David and Jane Lessard, in charge of the takeout meals; and Robyn Johnston, who oversees the delivery and rides.

Beets said this core group has been working together so long they have the meal almost down to a science. "It's just wonderful. We hardly even meet anymore because everybody knows what they have to do and do it. It sure makes my job so much easier."

Add to this, a dedicated staff of volunteers in a variety of other capacities and you have what it takes for another successful Thanksgiving meal, Beets said.

Once again, the volunteers will be preparing enough food to serve about 700 dinners. including dine in, takeout and delivery, and at Churches United for the Homeless, where the food is taken and served at the conclusion of the Blessed Sacrament meal.

However, this year as the continuation of their weekly "Soup and More" program which sees a meal served every Thursday evening from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., a meal is also being planned for that time slot on Thanksgiving evening.

"Even though we are serving thanksgiving dinner from 11 to 2, we will also be offering a meal on thanksgiving evening for the people who know about it. We have a small group of volunteers who are going to prepare turkey sandwiches and leftovers for those who would like to join us to eat early evening and who also like to enjoy a little fun."

Beets said the "Soup and More" gathering has been in place since June with about 60 individuals typically turning out to dine and enjoy all the evening has to offer.

Beets emphasizes that everyone is welcome to come to the church and dine at either the noon meal of the evening gathering, no matter what the inspiration.

Both meals are free, but a free will offering with donations going to the poor fund, will be accepted by anyone wishing to contribute during the noon meal.

Beets said all-in-all meal planners are expecting to roast approximately 100 turkeys for this super sized Thanksgiving event.

Half of them will be prepared today (Wednesday) and the other half tomorrow.

Beets is quick to point out that the longevity and success of the meal is directly attributable to the generosity of all those who donate. Here she mentions the pies from Village Inn; the rolls from Pan of Gold; and all the actual turkeys and homemade goodies provided by parishioners and other grocery outlets, as well as others who have heard about the cause.

All in all Beets said "it is all the volunteer's time and effort that always makes this Thanksgiving undertaking work. Many of them are not even from our parish. I've had many phone calls from people who may have eaten here or who have heard about it from someone else who want to help." Beets said she has even had contact this year from a family who will be staying in Detroit Lakes, and driving over to help.

"I have to say that the generosity of people this year has just been overwhelming. This event is just so special for the members of our parish and they are always so willing to give. And it's not just this little group but everybody who gets involved whether its donations of food or help. The parish is made up of such a great group of people - a family that is truly wonderful. I'm just so happy to be associated with Blessed Sacrament. We just want people to come and enjoy."

Beets also stresses that there is no cut off time to call ahead for either meal deliveries or rides to the church. "We will take phone calls right up until we are done serving the meal. We want you to know you can still call on Thanksgiving and still get a meal or a ride."

Takeout meals and/or rides can be arranged by calling the church office at 701-282-3321.