The community of Oakdale has once again benefitted from the selflessness of others.
As the Spirit of Oakdale celebrated its 26th year of Thanksgiving dinner service, the Oakdale Lions Club got a crash course in turkey carving, mass mashed potato making and dinner service.
Long known for their service to the community via varying projects, including pancake breakfasts, the club is no stranger to feeding people.
Under the guidance of Lion Brian Lemons and support of event co-founder Vickie Thompson, over 700 people were fed a hot meal on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 29. According to Lemons there were 600 dine in and 100 meals delivered to homes through the continued support of CAPS, the volunteer arm of the Oakdale Police Department.
This marked the first year that Thompson and her sisters took a rear seat since first starting the event 26 years ago. Early last fall, Thompson and her volunteer crew made the public decision of stepping away from the project and passing the carving knife to a willing group or family.
Oakdale Lions stepped up without hesitation.
This year an estimated 50 people helped the club pull off a seamless event. Volunteers comprised of Boy Scouts, Scout leaders, former Spirit of Oakdale volunteers, as well as Lions and their spouses.
Lemons noted that in addition to the meal, face painting and a toy for each young attendee were continued traditions.
“We’ll continue with those next year,” he said. “It doesn’t take much effort to get the face painting organized. Getting the gifts takes a little more effort, but some of those kids, that might be the only gift they get all year.”
As is customary in past years, unused prepared food was picked up by Modesto Gospel Mission. Approximately two to three pick-ups full of unclaimed canned goods were delivered to Community Sharing.
With an early start and a crowd which seemed to fill Gene Bianchi Community Center through the late morning and early afternoon, Lemons shared he was the last to leave, climbing into his car by 2 p.m.
Pleased with the volume as well as efficiency, the project leader said next year he will likely divide the volunteers into shifts, as well as place a little more focus into advance publicity and fundraising to cover the cost of the dinner.
“I thought it went very, very well,” Lemons said. “Great public support, great turnout. Overall I’m very encouraged and Lions Club is on board for as long as the community wants to support it, we’ll be there.”