The Oakdale Lions Club is far from new at serving the community or serving up some good eats, for that matter. And as they have in the past, on Thursday the club rallied once again to provide the community with the annual Spirit of Oakdale Thanksgiving Dinner.
The event was hosted at the Gene Bianchi Community Center. The club members, along with a group of community volunteers, packaged up some 125 meals for home delivery and served an estimated 450 hot, heaping plates of food to in person diners.
Doors opened for the annual event around 10:30 a.m. Thanksgiving Day and closed up around 1 p.m., allowing the Lions and their volunteers time to clean up and go home for a holiday meal with their own families as well.
“They were lined up out there about 10 a.m.,” Oakdale Lions First Vice President, Brian Lemons, shared. “We had to politely ask people to just hold off, we weren’t quite ready.”
As the event co-chair, along with Lion Matt Hanko, Lemons shared the group first tended to the home delivery orders before opening the Community Center for the onsite diners. Lemons further shared by the time the doors opened, a line of close to 150 had already formed outside of the building downtown, adjacent to the Oakdale Town Plaza.
“It was steady all day,” he stated, “just a good steady flow.”
Fortunately, thanks to monetary donations as well as food donations made by the community, there was plenty for all who were in attendance. Over 55 turkeys were carved and served alongside stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce, hot rolls and pie for dessert. Any leftover food was donated and picked up by representatives of the Modesto Gospel Mission.
“This is just something we do for the community,” Lemons said of the annual event, which the group first took over coordinating five years ago. “We don’t sell tickets or anything. There’s a reflection of how need is out there at any given time.”
CAPS volunteers take the home-delivered meals to those that can’t get to the Community Center, while everyone is welcome to eat in and share the holiday meal and camaraderie.
“I guess the thing we’ve learned is just how much of a need there is in the community, to support some of the less fortunate,” Lemons continued.
Yet as the event continues to fill a need, Lemons emphasized how that’s only possible through the support of donors.
“The community steps up and donates turkeys and the Lions Club donates some and, all in all, the community support remains strong,” he shared. “We’re looking forward to it remaining because that’s what it’s about. It’s about helping people who may need a little bit of help. It’s also about just another way of keeping the community together instead of it being just a splintered group of people that drive back and forth to work from here.”
The Thursday prior to the event, turkeys are taken to the H-B Saloon for community members to pick up and prepare for serving at the annual event. Through the help and support of owner, Mike Bacigalupi, the birds are returned to the saloon, where they are able to be properly stored until picked up by Lions Club members the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving.