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Free Thanksgiving Day dinner is a big 'thank you'

Everyone is invited


November 22, 2019

File art from 2018 dinner

The Carlton County Disabled American Veterans and Auxiliary would like to invite everyone to dinner on Thanksgiving Day.

Whether you come to eat or to volunteer or both, all are welcome to the free community meal from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 28 at Cloquet's Zion Lutheran Church, 1000 Washington Ave. In addition to the sit-down meal, deliveries are available to homebound residents between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. People who want delivery should call Zion at 218-879-4647 by Monday, Nov. 25.

"This is a thank you for all the Carlton County residents who have donated to our clothing drop boxes or supported the brat stand and rummage sales," said Cloquet veteran Raffy Johnson, who heads the event for the DAV.

It is the third annual Thanksgiving dinner sponsored by Chapter 18 Carlton County DAV, which took over the community meal after the College of St. Scholastica concentrated on the buffet at the DECC in Duluth.

"I think we will eventually hit a plateau of people we serve, but I don't think we've hit that yet," said Johnson, noting that they expect to serve between 650 and 750 total meals this year. "We've tried to push out more flyers to the southern and western part of the county to serve any of those people who need a meal. They can come here or we will deliver to the whole county."

If you miss the Nov. 25 deadline for delivery request, please call anyway, Johnson said. They don't want people to go hungry on Thanksgiving.

If you ordered a meal delivered and it seems to be taking a long time, call the church.

"Sometimes mistakes happen," he said. "The deadline (for delivery requests) helps us plan how to do delivereis, but if someone misses that deadline, they can call. We won't turn them down."

Tackling the logistics of such a large event might have been daunting to some, but Johnson was literally born to do it. His father, Dave, has been organizing the annual community Christmas dinner at Zion for close to 25 years, and Dave also had a hand in previous Thanksgiving efforts. Raffy's sisters also volunteer at the dinner.

It takes a small army of volunteers to run the event, from food preparation to serving, delivery, entertainment and cleanup. They need about 20 volunteers at the church to work two-hour shifts: from 9-11 a.m., 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. and 1-3 p.m. They also need 25 volunteers, mostly drivers, who would begin delivery and packing up meals starting at 10 a.m. at the Cloquet VFW. Volunteers should sign up in advance by calling Zion at 218-879-4647 as soon as possible. Johnson said Alison from Community Printing promised to make T-shirts for anyone who doesn't get one (after the fact, in case they run out).

Community Printing is one of the meal's supportive donors, along with B&B Market.

"Kim and John Lind (of B&B) donated some really nice equipment for this year's event: a steam line (for hot food) and a cold serving line," Johnson said, adding that neither of those pieces were available at the church before.

The DAV Thanksgiving meal also has two main monetary donors: the Cloquet Eagles Club and the Cloquet Labor Temple in association with the Irving Community Club.

File art from 2018 dinner

Johnson said the DAV doesn't solicit many local businesses "because they get asked to donate to so many things," but they will gladly accept more donations of money or in-kind services and items.

"We don't really need more, but the more we get, the better we can do it," he said, adding that the goal is to break even. "We keep it small, but if we do get more donations or sponsors we can improve things in the future."

Johnson said the DAV has an aluminum can trailer parked in the Premiere Theatres parking lot in Cloquet, for community members who would like to donate cans. The money from selling the cans for recycling supports the DAV Thanksgiving dinner and the Christmas dinner sponsored by Zion Lutheran Church.


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