It is a long time community tradition that, like many, had to take a break in the 2020 year. But it is a new year and the Oakdale Lions Club is both excited as well as proud to bring the Spirit of Oakdale Thanksgiving Dinner back to the community.
The club recently sent out mailers announcing the return of the free meal, as well as soliciting donations both for dinner items, as well as monetary support. A call for volunteers was also requested, as the group has plans to serve a total of 400 Thanksgiving dinners, to go, to those in need.
“It’s going to be a drive thru,” organizer and longtime Lions member Brian Lemons shared. “That’s going to be the only big difference I’ve seen as far as returning after the shutdown. We got the go ahead from the city to use the hall.”
As with previous years, preparation of the meal will begin in the kitchen of the Gene Bianchi Community Center on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. Distribution of the meal will be hosted in the parking lot on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“We got a really good response so far,” Lemons said of community support for the returning event. “We’re doing everything exactly the same with the exception of bringing people in to the hall. We’re going to just give them to go boxes and send them on their way.”
Lemons additionally shared that the decision to host a drive-thru versus a dine in is partially due to limiting exposure by way of a large gathering for both the workers as well as the community.
“It won’t be the event that it has been, but it will be an event that people can enjoy in a different way and the folks that really need a warm Thanksgiving meal can get one,” Lemons said.
Fellow Lion John Fauria also noted the Wednesday night cooking set up will be the same as it has in the past. This will also be the ideal time for community members to drop off donations of cooked turkeys, as well as pies for those interested in donating.
Just as with prior years the emphasis of “cooked” remains important by way of the turkeys. The Lions anticipate a need of approximately 60 turkeys to serve the 400 drive-thru meals. Dessert pies are also needed. Cooked turkeys may be dropped on the day before Thanksgiving at the Community Center or to the H-B any time prior to that. Desserts are requested to be dropped off Wednesday as well as early Thanksgiving morning.
For community members not able to make a food or monetary donation, the service club members shared they will be in need of additional help Thanksgiving morning, as well as later in the day.
“What we don’t know, what we just can’t gauge is, are we going to have 300 people or are we going to have 600 people,” Lemons said. “So between that (the 400 planned) and the 120 CAPS delivers to the shut-ins we’ll probably serve about 550 meals.”
“That’s the hope,” Lemons added of targeting more of a need this year versus the social gathering of the past. “So if we can serve 400 we’ll be doing good.”
Lemons noted the generosity of the community, sharing that many don’t sign up but rather just drop off the cooked bird and/or pies or a check toward the expense.
“I would say our biggest need would be pies that we could cut up and serve,” Lemons said of meal needs. “The other stuff we’ll go out and buy because we have to cook the stuffing and the potatoes the day of the event.”
Unserved meals will be donated to Modesto Gospel Mission, just as it has in past years. The group will also have grocery bags of canned goods and other items donated through the canned goods food drive to send home with families.
“I think it’s coming together pretty well,” Lemons said of the return of the meal. “If we can just let the community know, I think it’s going to be great.”
Community members interested in making a donation to the drive-thru event or wanting to volunteer may do so by calling Lemons at (209) 404-9511 or Lion Dennis Hitch at (209) 481-3158.