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Thanksgiving: Offering of food can't be stopped


December 4, 2020

Jana Peterson

Dianne Dahl starts with the turkey as Bernie Sundeen goes through the line (repeatedly) on Thursday, filling up individual meals for carryout and delivery.

Like everything else in 2020, Thanksgiving looked a little different this year, especially for large community meals like the one organized by the Disabled American Vets in Cloquet.

Instead of a sit down meal at a local church, this year all the meals were packaged individually for delivery or pickup. There were no guests to greet, and each volunteer had to sign in at the door, in case someone tested positive for Covid later and they needed to contact everyone.

The food was the same: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and a roll, along with a slice of pumpkin pie.

DAV treasurer Raffy Johnson has spearheaded the annual event since the DAV took over four years ago. He said they delivered 505 meals, with all out for delivery before noon, except for about 10 that fell through the cracks and got their meals a little later. Additionally, people drove up to the back of the VFW and picked up another 210 meals.

A total of 42 volunteers made it happen.

"We had almost exactly enough for all positions," Johnsons said, "and out of 44 turkeys, only four were left over."

New and familiar volunteers - mostly veterans, their families and/or auxiliary members - worked together out of the VFW in Cloquet, cooking, packaging and delivering meals to anyone who asked.

George Wilton helped out in the kitchen Thursday morning. His son, Tony, serves at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

"I figured if he can work for our country so can I, doing volunteer work," George said.

There were plenty of families volunteering together, including the father/son teams of Keagan and Kris Hanson and Mark and Emilio Hayward. Husband/wife team Rich and Connie Ekholm were there, so were Bernie and Julie Sundeen and their daughter, Heidi.

Jana Peterson

Manya Teorey (from left), Raffy Johnson and Judy Polley figure out the first delivery order of the day at about 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 26. The group of volunteers made more than 700 meals, with 505 delivered and the rest picked up.

They weren't too worried about the pandemic.

"I figure as long as we keep up with the recommendations for wearing masks and social distancing, I don't feel like I'm in any more danger here than if I went to Walmart," Bernie said.

Usually the DAV operates out of two different venues, with cooking and deliveries out of the Cloquet VFW, and sit-down dinners, carryout meals and more meal prep at Zion Lutheran Church.

"It made it easier to work out of one, but it's much more rewarding seeing everyone come in and have a good time, sit down and socializem," Johnson said.

Although the DAV puts on the meal - with help from several other community organizations and businesses - to say thanks for the support all year long, they also accept freewill offerings to help cover expenses. They received a record $1,600 in donations on the day, Johnson said.


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