During a time when finding things to be grateful for is more important than ever, the news that the annual Spirit of Oakdale Thanksgiving event has been canceled due to corona virus restrictions couldn’t be more depressing.
Two years ago, the Oakdale Lions Club took over the job of organizing the popular community volunteer event in a smooth transition but this year the pandemic squashed any attempts to find a work around, leaving many people without a hot turkey dinner.
This would’ve been the 27th year for the community event, serving up fresh, homemade turkey, mashed potatoes, and the rest of the traditional holiday fare to those less fortunate, or alone for the holidays.
Oakdale Lions Club President, Jim Austin, shared the club’s struggle to keep the event going that ultimately ended without a solution.
“We had a couple of different suggestions but the city wouldn’t approve them. We tried to think of alternate ways but nothing worked,” Austin said.
Planning for the Spirit of Oakdale event started in July but even as infection numbers started to drop, city officials weren’t keen to expose people unnecessarily, which as it turned out would become prophetic; as 41 of the 58 California counties are in the most restrictive purple, many falling back into that tier this week as virus infections began to climb again.
At the Spirit of Oakdale dinner in a typical year, turkey donations average in the 70 to 80 range, with approximately 60 to 65 turkeys eaten that day and about a dozen donated to the Gospel Mission in Modesto.
“They do such a great job with it,” Austin said. “When we came in two years ago to learn how they do it, I was amazed at the lengths they went to, to prepare really good meals. The potatoes are all hand-peeled — that’s about 300 pounds of potatoes. One woman baked a turkey every night leading up to the event. This stuff does not come out of a can. It’s really an amazing thing. The Spirit of Oakdale group was incredible.”
Another volunteer group that relied upon the generosity of The Spirit of Oakdale was the local homeless resource center.
“Oakdale Rescue Mission always relies on our Thanksgiving and now they’re scrambling to figure out their own,” Austin said. “2020 is just kicking us.”
But even as dark and dreary as the reality is, Austin was quick to reassure the community saying, “The Spirit of Oakdale is not going away and isn’t dying. It just can’t happen this year. The commitment hasn’t gone anywhere. Hopefully, next year, we’ll be back on track.”