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Alive In Spirit
oak spirit
Volunteers were busy serving close to 900 guests Thanksgiving Day at the Gene Bianchi Community Center. The 21st Annual Spirit of Oakdale Thanksgiving Feast stayed busy with activity during the 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. time frame it was open. A total of 60 volunteers gather each year, from throughout the valley to make the event possible. Teresa Hammond/The Leader


On Wednesday evening, the night before Thanksgiving, Vickie Thompson spent her time similar to many, as she prepared for a holiday feast. Her kitchen, however, was somewhat different and the number of turkeys being prepped indicated something larger than a ‘typical’ family meal.

Thompson along with her counterpart Mickey Peabody and a crew of 60 spent Wednesday evening and Thursday morning preparing to serve the community for the 21st Annual Spirit of Oakdale Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

“We prepped 85 turkeys, 300 pounds of potatoes and boxed up 95 CAPS meals,” Thompson said. “This is the biggest one we’ve had yet.”

The veteran Spirit of Oakdale board member estimates 900 people were served that day between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Gene Bianchi Community Center.

“People started lining up for toys at 8 this morning,” veteran volunteer Loretta Johnson said on Thanksgiving Day, with youngsters provided with some toys, many coming to share the meal, and others also taking food home following the dinner.

Johnson has spent her 21 years of service working the front door, greeting and directing the guests as they arrive. From her wheelchair, Johnson works just as much and as hard as those on two able legs.

“This is my Thanksgiving,” the volunteer shared. “It was on this day (Thanksgiving) when I was six years old that I fell down and lost use of my legs. It’s the day I got polio. Now I come here, because it gives me new memories.”

Along with being a smiling face to welcome in the crowd, she also hands out extra gifts to the children.

“This year we had just enough toys,” she said of her post. “But it sure would help if during the year people would donate.”

Ever the gracious hostess, Thompson shared gratitude for the number of people who selflessly donate to the effort, “Mary Ann brought over rolls and cookies from the bakery (Moss Rose). Lisa Dolling always brings down 20 pies. People are just so kind and giving.”

The prep work starts well in advance of the Thursday warmth the Community Center offers to the crowd.

“Next year I’m going to need to have more help (prepping) the night before,” Thompson acknowledged. “You know we’re getting old.”

“It would be nice to maybe have the high school kids put out a challenge or something on Facebook,” Johnson added.

But as with each year, record number attendance aside, the day went off without a hitch.

“It was just insane,” Thompson said as the day wound down. “This was the first time we’ve had to go in and carve more turkeys. From 10:30 until about noon this place was packed.”

Monetary donations were down notably this year, she added, but somehow, there was enough to go around and all shared in the community spirit.

“So wonderful having so many people,” she concluded. “They are all very kind and thankful. It was a good year for me.

“What I love seeing is those who come back and give. Like the one young girl we had this year. She used to come every year with her family. This year she came and served as a volunteer. That’s what it’s all about.”